Last year marked the end of a legendary era, as the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced it would no longer broadcast its Labor Day telethon. Founded and hosted by comedian Jerry Lewis, the annual show began in 1966, with each year boasting a long list of superstar guests — from Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin to Betty White and Johnny Carson. More than $2.5 billion was raised for the MDA in the telethon's almost half-century history.
The MDA cited "the new realities of television viewing and philanthropic giving" as its reason for pulling the telethon's plug. But this year, they're banking on the new realities of social media. In lieu of the live television broadcast, the MDA has launched a digital campaign called "Live Unlimited."
Last week, artists including Drake White, Lauren Alaina, Chuck Wicks, Locash, Billy Ray Cyrus, Megan & Liz, American Authors and Canaan Smith all performed on live Facebook streams to help raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy, ALS and other muscle-debilitating diseases.
Smith and his band performed in a hotel conference room in Orlando, where the rising country star sang three hits and talked about a good friend, Joseph, who was diagnosed with M.D. as a child. "He's still fighting the fight today, and he's healthy, he's doing great," Smith reported. "He's shown me first-hand the courage it takes to live unlimited."
The "Live Unlimited" campaign is inspired by people like Joseph who refuse to let their physical limitations define them. It continues through July 31st and also includes an initiative to collect photos of people suffering from muscle-related illnesses defying the odds to "live unlimited." An unnamed sponsor will donate $1 for every photo uploaded here. Additionally, you can watch a video of people telling their inspiring "Live Unlimited" stories here.