LAS VEGAS – After 45 years promoting treatment and a cure for children he calls “my kids,” comedian Jerry Lewis announced Monday he is retiring as host of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon that has become synonymous with his name.
Lewis, 85, issued a statement through the association calling it “time for an all new Telethon era.”
“As a labor of love, I’ve hosted the annual Telethon since 1966 and I’ll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ ” Lewis said of a shortened six-hour primetime broadcast scheduled for Sept. 4.
Lewis, a Las Vegas resident, has in recent years battled a debilitating back condition, heart issues and the crippling lung disease pulmonary fibrosis. He said he’ll continue serving as national Muscular Dystrophy Association chairman, as he’s done since the early 1950s.
“I’ll never desert MDA and my kids,” he said.
Officials with the Tucson, Ariz.-based nonprofit hailed Lewis as one of the world’s great humanitarians.
More than $1 billion has been raised during Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons over the years, association spokesman Jim Brown said.