The year is 2005. The deaths that year of entertainment icons such as Bob Denver of "Gilligan's Island" were reminders to Americans that times change but life goes on. They also make us appreciate all the more the roles of those who use their fame to help others.
High on that list was comedian Jerry Lewis. In 2005, Lewis and his name were again the driving forces behind raising millions of dollars to help the victims of muscular dystrophy. The projected total from the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon that year was put at nearly $55 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
But there was another important mission in 2005. Knowing the plight of so many Americans from Hurricane Katrina, Lewis expanded the telethon to include appeals for money to help the victims. More than $1 million was the projected total for the Salvation Army, dollars matched by $1 million pledged from MDA for the storm victims.
"I'm overjoyed that we were able to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and at the same time continue our 40-year tradition of helping ‘my kids,'" Lewis said. "Of course, I'm not surprised. The American people have never let me down."
The Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon to benefit MDA, begun by Lewis in 1956, is no more. Lewis’ final hosting stint was in 2010. But he forever raised the profile of muscular dystrophy and endeared himself to many Americans as more than a comedian.
Fast forward to 2017. In this year the death of Jerry Lewis himself at age 91 is the news. And there is another horrific hurricane about which to report. The devastation from Hurricane Harvey in Texas is only beginning to be assessed. Recovery will take years.
There will be no Labor Day telethon to assist in raising money to help those hurt by Harvey. But were Jerry Lewis here and his project ongoing, just as in 2005 he would surely ask Americans to assist.
And just as they always do, Americans will respond.
So consider the pleas after Hurricane Harvey very real this Labor Day weekend. More than government assistance will be needed. Reach out and help – as a good American and in memory of Jerry Lewis.
While there are many organizations aiding, you should do your homework to be sure the one you choose is legitimate. Forbes offers some good advice in relying on “oldies but goodies,” saying, “There’s nothing wrong with new charitable organizations but there is something to be said for those that have been around for awhile - like the Red Cross.” To donate to the Red Cross, visit redcross.org, call 800-435-7669 or send to American Red Cross, PO Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839.