by Melissa Brunner
For the first time in 17 years, it seems I can make plans for Labor Day weekend.
As was announced earlier this week, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced an agreement for the ABC network to air its "Show of Strength." It's the latest in a string of changes for the annual fundraising event in recent years. Two years ago, the show scaled back from 12 hours on Labor Day to six hours the Sunday night before. Last year, we produced a three-hour, prime-time program for Sunday night, with our local segments pre-recorded. (We still held a watch party so we could get together with the local families!)
The change this year, though, means the telethon will leave WIBW-TV. By way of background, MDA's annual event aired on what it called its "Love Network." MDA negotiated individually with stations in each television market to air the telethon. The stations would give up whatever their network's regular programming was for the day in order to air MDA's show. That is why we'd move U.S. Open Tennis to MyTV! In recent years, the number of stations comprising the Love Network had shrunk.
The ABC agreement means MDA's Show of Strength will air in all markets across the country - it will be THE program for all ABC stations that night. It will give MDA maximum exposure for its services, families and sponsors.
I understand the business side of the move. It makes me sad personally, but I understand. All non-profit organizations are faced with the reality of today's economy and must take the actions it deems appropriate.
The children, adults and families I've met through MDA over the years have been very special to me. As this era comes to an end, I want them all to know how they have touched my heart with their strength, dedication and courage. I truly am a better person for having had you all as part of my life. That will never change.
I hope the new affiliates to the Love Network will embrace you the way we have - and I hope the community will not waiver in its support. MDA is about more than one emcee and one television station and one night. It is about families who live with neuromuscular diseases 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are what it is all about. You can agree or disagree with MDA's decision regarding the Show of Strength, but don't lose sight of the ultimate goals - in the short term, to ensure these families never lose hope and, in the long term, to one day say, "We have a cure."
Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of the effort.