Summer Camp Shines

I spent the day with some great young people today.  They are the campers and counselors at the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp.  They come from throughout eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware to enjoy the week of camp in Worcester Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful.

From swimming to arts and crafts to building floats and just hanging out and having fun, the camp is all a summer camp should be and more.  More, because MDA creates a setting in which these campers get a chance to meet new friends, to have a great time, but also to be in an environment where they don’t have to explain anything to anybody.

It was great seeing Dennis and Carol Schaeffer, of Schaeffer’s Harley Davidson of Orwigsburg.  Schaeffer’s is one of the top HD dealers in the nation in raising money for MDA.

They and a convoy of Harley owners came to give rides to the campers.

The wonderful folks from Lowe’s were on hand to help build floats for the parade.  This year’s theme is Road Trip and they were in the South today. Thus, the many Mardis Gras and racing themes.  Other sponsors and volunteers were there. The Upper Darby Fire Department served a splendid dinner, 24 hours after the Philadelphia Fire Department dished out a meal I heard kids talking about all day. (The ribs were a hit, Local 22.)

The MDA Summer Camp is a week of optimism.

While the Association’s aim is to cure neuromuscular diseases, the camp shows why MDA is an organization of heart, for it it seeks to help people in every way and to do so today.

Make a muscle. Make a difference.

25th Ride for Life

The 25th annual Ride for Life benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association was a rumbling, rousing success this weekend in Bethlehem.  As the weekend got underway, endless rows of Harleys filled a lot on Saturday at Steel Stacks, a marvelous venue centered on the behemoth of an old blast furnace.  The big ride was Sunday.

All sorts of good entertainment filled much of the weekend, led of course by the Bacon Brothers concert Saturday  night. Among the high points was MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali singing  “Lean On Me”  with Kevin and Michael Bacon. Fans of the Mummers were on hand to also hear, “Son of a Mummer.” The Bacon Brothers Band is ending its latest tour. They’ve begun work on a new CD and performed a song from it, “493 Miles.”

The weekend was a great anniversary fundraiser and spirit lifter. Many MDA families were there and of course, more than a thousand Harley owners and riders. For two and a half decades, Harley Davidson dealerships and Harley owners have been riding to raise money for research into neuromuscular diseases and support the services provided by MDA. They continue to set the pace and, provide hope and their goodwill is yielding success.Thanks to all the riders from Atlantic City to Harrisburg, the Poconos to Delaware, who joined in the celebration.This year’s MDA “Show of Strength” will again be on PHl17 Labor Day weekend.

Mall Walking

More than 500 great citizens walked through the King of Prussia Mall this morning in the annual MDA Make A Muscle, Make A Difference Walk.  Walkers came in all combinations, including large teams.  There was the fun warm-up and when all were ready, Maddie Crowley, of Downingtown and the MDA Statewide Goodwill Ambassador, cut the gold ribbon to begin the walk through the mall.

The revenue raised by the walk will go for support services offered by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and for research into more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.

Thanks to all the walkers.  You Made A Muscle…

                                              And Made a Difference!

The Fight Goes on!

Thank you to all who contributed this year to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  The September 4th Telethon was a success.  Nearly 2.3 million dollars was raised in the Philadelphia region this year and 61.5 million throughout the U.S.  It was great working with Lori Wilson and all the folks involved with the PHL17 broadcast. We are especially grateful to the MDA families and physicians who spent time with us to raise awareness about neuromuscular diseases and further the progress of research. Together we can Make a Muscle and Make a Difference.


Telethon Time!

It’s time to take the next step in helping some of our neighbors!  The 46th annual MDA Labor Day Telethon takes place this Sunday night, September 4th, from 6pm to midnight on PHL17.   On behalf of so many people, thank yous go out to the firefighters of the IAFF, from Philadelphia to Reading, Upper Darby to Burlington County.  Thank you to great corporate supporters like Lowe’s, ACME, Genuardi’s, SuperFresh, Walgreen’s and more.  And, of course, thanks to the Harley Davidson owners and stores.  Your work makes a difference in the lives of people like Obie Hazzard III.  His mom and dad are great people.  His father is a Philadelphia Police Officer who lives up to the respect the badge deserves.  Young Obie was made an honorary chief last month in the Philadelphia Fire Department.   Lookin’ good, Obie!

This year is a new model for the telethon.  The roughly 21 hour event which used to run from Sunday night to Monday evening is no longer.  It’s just Sunday night this year.  As of this moment, Jerry Lewis will not make an appearance.  These two changes have happened for multiple reasons. Lewis himself announced earlier this year that he would retire.  What I know is that the folks at the Muscular Dystrophy Association respect the contributions and dedication of Jerry Lewis who has spent most of his life, even if imperfectly at times, trying to help people the government or corporations chose largely to ignore.  Television and viewing patterns and the business of television are very much different from what they used to be.  Change is one of the few constants.

What I am 100 percent certain of is that the children and adults living with neuromuscular diseases deserve just as much love, respect and attention as any one else. I know that MDA has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research. That research has yielded some treatments and spurred current clinical trials with treatment potential.  I know families who appreciate MDA and those of you who contribute.  I’ve done a few telethons, but my connections with these families and with MDA are more than 1 night a year.  I’ve met with doctors and researchers in Philadelphia and in the suburbs who work with MDA clients or who work on research.  Some of this science may yield benefits for people with other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. 

It is my hope that as part of each of our efforts to find cures for a variety of illnesses, from heart disease to cancer,  we also remember our neighbors and classmates living with neuromuscular diseases and disorders. 

Smart people are laboring at Drexel University and other academic institutions to aid practical research efforts by small and large biopharmaceutical companies.  In laboratories work is being done on the genetics of diseases, which often involve some defect that makes the body fail to produce sufficient amounts of a needed protein or involve a problem with an enzyme.  The exact protein or enzyme, locations and timing vary with each illness.  The illness may be ALS, primarily affecting adults, or it could be a range of other diseases hitting young children, like brother and sister, Evan and Gracie, seen to the right. 

So much has been learned in recent years.  There is reason to hope.  But in the real world, this hope also needs money.  I contribute.  One way I do is taking part in Abbey Umali’s reading challenge.  Abbey, a national MDA Goodwill Ambassador, has not yet given me her final number of books read this summer, but I’ve pledged  a certain dollar amount for each book she’s read.  Last year she raised about $20,000 from people who took part in her effort and this year I think she’ll top that.  Whatever path you can take, thank you.

Please tune in the MDA Telethon this Sunday night, September 4th, from 6pm to Midnight on PHL17 and contribute if you can.  In the words of the kids I talked with at camp this year in Montgomery County, “Make a Muscle, Make a Difference.”

MDA Camp 2011!

Great kids, dedicated counselors and staff, and wonderful volunteers filled out a perfect sun-splashed day at MDA Summer Camp 2011 today.  Camp’s great all week but today the Harley Davidson owners led by Schaeffer’s and Classic HD came to Worcester Township, Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia.  Crafts, too, were awesome.  Tyler made a strap for his guitar.  He is quite the electric guitar master.  He and his counselor, Max, lit up the stage for me for a few minutes.  Tyler is a huge Aerosmith and Beatles fan.   He burned the Beatles logo into his strap. The folks from Lowe’s were outstanding as usual in helping the campers build their floats for the big parade.  This year’s camp theme is “Holidays”, so the kids built floats that fit holidays.  I think the Thanksgiving one was especially clever.  Columbus Day was pretty cool.  I loved what Gracie and Evan, sister and brother,

 did.  They competed against each other.  She was Santa in his sleigh and Evan was a Valentine’s Day card.  He is one hip cowboy.  We cannot say enough about the counselors who genuinely bond with the kids and provide leadership and friendship.  The campers themselves truly love being there.  It’s a chance to be themselves, no constant explaining anything to anybody, and it’s a chance to really enjoy a week of swimming, crafting, hockey or soccer playing, music, pranks, a little mischief, and more.  MDA Summer Camp is fun.  It is made possible  by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which every year also channels tens of millions of dollars into research aimed at curing more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.  This year’s MDA Labor Day Telethon is Sunday night, September 4th, from 6 p.m. to midnight on PHl17 in Philadelphia.  Excuse me, I have to go. It’s time for Twister.


Make a Muscle.

Make Difference.


Make a Muscle, Make a Difference

Just got back from Las Vegas where I attended a major meeting of the Muscular Dystrophy Association regarding the upcoming Telethon.  The MDA Labor Day Telethon has been an institution and an inspiration since the mid 1960’s and this year, as it transforms into a new era, it will continue to be so as it takes center stage Labor Day weekend in a new format and time.  The Telethon will take place on PHl17 Sunday night, September 4th, from  6 p.m. To Midnight.   It will no longer be on Monday, Labor Day itself.  The new time is more prime time oriented, fits into the new model of viewing and offers new opportunties. Jerry Lewis has announced his retirement from the Telethon, though he is scheduled to make a final appearance at the end of this year’s broadcast and he will remain as National Chairman of MDA.  The Las Vegas meeting took place at the South Point Hotel & Casino, site of the Telethon.  I got a chance to talk with MDA executives and Telethon producers about the new Telethon and the latest MDA developments.  National Emcee Jann Carl was among those filling us in and MDA families also reminded us how vital MDA’s funding of research and support services have been.  I spoke with MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali.  Abbey is all about “Make a Muscle, Make  a Difference.”   She is excited, too, because one of this year’s special guests will be Darius Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish) and she and Darius will sing together at the Grand ‘Ol Opry.  In the 3 months ahead I’ll keep you posted on the guest list for the Telethon, the latest on MDA research, the upcoming MDA Summer Camp I’m attending and why your support for MDA makes a difference.