Wednesday, July 17, 2024

No Labor Day Telethon: CEO Makes More than Group’s Average Grant to Needy Groups


The Muscular Dystrophy Association is proud that its average donation to hospitals, research and other organization is $300,000.

In 2013, their new CEO topped that amount by a lot. Stephen Derks was paid a total of $522,000 to run MDA. Charity begins at home!

Tonight, there is no Labor Day Telethon at all after Jerry Lewis was booted in 2010. Since then, MDA has had two or three hour specials on ABC. Now they have nothing. The old Jerry Lewis Telethon was syndicated and bartered, meaning MDA offered the show for free, paid its costs, and the stations around the country who picked it up made money from advertising. They were local stations anyway, so their costs weren’t that high.

But that all changed when MDA ousted Lewis and went for the ABC specials. According to their tax filing from 2013, MDA paid the ABC Network a whopping $2.2 million to put on that canned special which no one watched.

The post-Jerry Lewis MDA is still raising money and distributing it. Their largest donation, for over a million dollars, now goes to ALS. MDA’s total executive salaries in 2013 were $1.67 million.

June Kempf, whom I interviewed last year, just published an essay in Newsday. She wrote: “The telethon gave us purpose and hope. We participated in fundraisers all year — school “hop-a-thons,” dog walks, golf tournaments and fashion shows. The events provided precious moments for children with the disease to bond — to feel wanted.”

All of that is over now. The MDA network is gone, and so is the community. But the executives continue to reap benefits. In 2013, according to the group’s 2013 Form 990, MDA paid TargetCast, a media group, $1.306,520, to produce ads for the ABC telethon, the one they paid ABC another $2.2 million for. The CEO of TargetCast is Steve Farella, an MDA board member. TargetCast was paid an additional fee of $166,931 so Farella could get those public service announcements on the air. (Farella, they point out, “is not directly compensated by MDA.”)

You wonder why after all these years, MDA has produced few results. Meanwhile the ALS Association is credited with raising $115 million last year through its Ice Bucket challenge. According to the New York Times, the money directly affected a research breakthrough this year.

The publicity was free.

Jerry Lewis, come back!


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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