Story last updated at 1:20 p.m. Saturday, August 31, 2002

Take time for telethon
Amid the cookouts, parades and end-of-summer festivities this Labor Day weekend, please remember to take a moment for Hope.

"Hope" is what the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual Jerry Lewis Telethon represents to the tens of thousands of American families coping with muscle-wasting diseases. I know this first-hand as the mother of Mattie Stepanek, the 2002 MDA National Goodwill Ambassador (and best-selling poet). Both Mattie and I have mitochondrial myopathy, a neuromuscular disease that took the lives of Mattie's three older siblings.

Thanks to funds raised by the telethon, a worldwide team of MDA-funded scientists is using adult stem cells, drug screening and gene therapies to search for cures and treatments for the more than 40 neuromuscular diseases included in MDA's program. Progress is made on this front every day, but there still is far to go and the research is very costly.

In addition, the telethon helps fund MDA services, including clinics, help in buying and repairing adaptive medical equipment and -- best of all, in Mattie's opinion -- MDA summer camps for thousands of youngsters.

MDA receives no government funds. Its work is the result of the caring generosity -- and hope -- of people like you.

Thank you for taking time to tune in to the telethon on Sept. 1 and 2, and for making a pledge to MDA. Your support means a lot to Mattie and me, and to families in your community, too.

Jeni Stepanek

Upper Marlboro, Md.

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