The MDA Telethon in 2011 was controversial in that it lacked the presence and public blessings of long-time host Jerry Lewis.
In May, it was announced that Lewis would host the program one last time in 2011 and perform his signature song You'll Never Walk Alone. However, with an abrupt and controversial press release, the MDA announced in August that Lewis will not participate in the fundraiser.
Lewis, a giant in this cause, hosted the first MDA Telethon (previously named the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon) in 1966 and claims to have raised over $2.6 billion in his 61-year involvement with the movement.
Still, the MDA - with a shortened program (from 21 hours previously to 6 hours in 2011), without Lewis, and with former MDA supporters vowing to pull their donations - raised a whopping $61.5 million, which is $2.6 million more than last year's total.
The new era of prime-time Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethons has started... This is the biggest Telethon achievement since 2008, when the global recession began, stated the MDA.
Many supporters of Lewis, furious at the MDA for his absence, were not comforted by the 2011 fundraising success.
The telethon was lousy and boring. No one puts on a show like Jerry Lewis. It will never be the same. I won't watch it anymore, said one commenter on Facebook.
Some worried about how the fundraiser will do in 2012. I fear next year will be a disaster and Jerry's Kids will suffer for it, wrote on commenter on Facebook.
A few even question the veracity of MDA's claim that it raised more money than last year.
I do not believe the numbers. I think MDA is comparing apples to oranges...It just makes no sense they could raise more money than last year in just 6 hours, wrote one commenter on IBTimes.
Another commenter on Facebook was more conciliatory.
The telethon was not the same without Jerry Lewis! But I pray that everyone will continue supporting the people who depend so much on MDA! he said.