If you were a child growing up in 1970′s America, I guarantee you will have memories of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethons that took place every Labor Day.
It meant an entire weekend of top-notch entertainment, the tense excitement of the tote board (Will they beat last year’s amount?) and the inevitable let down on Monday night when you realized that the end of the telethon meant the first day of school was happening tomorrow. As the years went on, Jerry Lewis got very puffy, the show lost its ability to draw any notable celebrities and, to be honest, I can’t be sure it exists anymore, not even in a truncated format.
In retrospect, I wonder if there was a single family who actually put on one of those MDA carnivals in their backyard. And more importantly, why did no one think that if you’re going to go to the trouble of putting on a three-day telethon shouldn’t it benefit children who suffer a whole range of diseases and disadvantages, not just the ones with muscular dystrophy?
Well the Brits have been doing just that for over three decades and tomorrow night the BBC will be putting on the 32nd annual Appeal Night to benefit its corporate charity, Children In Need. Since 1980, CIN has been raising money for organizations that support children with all sorts of issues up and down the UK. These young people may have physical or developmental disabilities, psychological disorders, live in poverty conditions or be victims of abuse or neglect.In the days and weeks leading up to Appeal Night, people get sponsored to do unusual things to raise money for the charity. In just a preliminary Google Image search, I saw a zombie bungee jump and a guy getting his legs waxed in aid of Children in Need. One of the most popular stunts is sitting in a tub full of baked beans like this brave teacher pictured below.
In addition to community involvement, national level campaigns are planned as well. This year’s big fundraising challenge involves six young people (all have been helped by a Children in Need supported organization) and a rickshaw bicycle journey from Wales to London.
On tap for tomorrow evening’s actual tv broadcast, perennial host Terry Wogan will welcome plenty of poppy music performers, particularly girl group, Girls Aloud singing the official single of this campaign, “Something New”. It’ll probably be very much like their previous appearances. Don’t worry. You don’t have to watch it all. I didn’t…
More interesting should be the Children in Need editions of Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear and Doctor Who. Many of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic athletes are scheduled to appear as is Pudsey the dog, winner of rival network ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. He was named for the CIN mascot after all. I don’t know that for a fact, I’m just spit-balling now.
This year may be a bit rocky considering all the current upheaval at the BBC, but I reckon it’s just what people need – the sweet, comfortable tradition of watching a night of slightly old-fashioned entertainment. So grab your Pudsey bear, sit back in your baked bean bath and, if you’re like me, wait for everything to show up on YouTube.
Here’s the link to the Children in Need website if you’d like to learn more.