Muscular Dystrophy Canada says Jerry Lewis s work played pivotal role

Muscular Dystrophy Canada says Jerry Lewis s work played  pivotal role
TORONTO -- The passionate advocacy work of Jerry Lewis has left an indelible mark in Canada, says the head of Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

CEO Barbara Stead-Coyle credits much of today s research breakthroughs to the tireless fundraising efforts of the comic and telethon giant, who died Sunday.

"It is part of our DNA, it is part of our history and I hope that someday we can make him proud by saying that the work is done, we found the cures," Stead-Coyle said Monday.

Lewis s star-packed telethons ran every Labour Day weekend from 1966 to 2010, a family viewing tradition for Stead-Coyle and many others who caught a homegrown feed that included local content and pleas for funds that would support Canadian families.

It wasn t clear how much money went to Canada, where firefighters have also driven significant donations since 1954 and now raise about $3 million a year.

But the end-of-summer ritual -- which revolved around emotional pitches from Lewis -- went far beyond just raising dollars for research and advocacy work, says Stead-Coyle.

She salutes him for raising awareness for a relatively rare condition, which in turn boosted her organization s efforts to lobby the government for access to education, jobs and clinical trials.

"It really played a pivotal role over and above just the dollars it generated. It gave our clients a platform to share their stories."

Stead-Coyle drew a direct line from Lewis s work to new treatment possibilities that offer "incredible hope."

"I m very privileged to see how that money was put to work and how the research breakthroughs are now coming to the forefront like never before," says Stead-Coyle, whose sister and step-brother were diagnosed with neuromuscular disorders as adults.

Lewis, who had battled the lung disease pulmonary fibrosis, heart issues, a debilitating back problem, and addiction to pain killers, died of natural causes, according to his publicist.
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