I'm in trouble. Not only am I going to jail, I am far short of making bail.
As you've probably guessed, I'm an MDA jailbird. The Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-Up takes place Thursday at the Kahului Ale House. The event, like many other annual fundraisers, has been streamlined for efficiency and, presumably, cost-effectiveness. I remember the first Maui Lock-Up, when prominent businessfolk were "arrested" at their workplaces and brought behind bars at the mall, where they sat with a telephone and a list of colleagues to tap for "bail" money. Nowadays they let you turn yourself in, and they help you raise bail ahead of time, with online tools and resource kits. It's all in fun and for a good cause.
For years, the organization's signature fundraiser was the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, an annual tradition from 1966 to 2010. It's now called the MDA Show of Strength and is far shorter than the original 211/2 hours. It's also lacking its original host and founder, following a highly publicized and widely criticized parting of ways. Whatever your opinion of Jerry Lewis, there's no denying the tremendous contribution he's made to the cause - more than $2 billion raised in 40-plus telethons.
Before cable TV and 24/7 programming, Labor Day weekend was the one time a year we could see something other than a test pattern on our TV screens after midnight. It was such a novelty to be entertained through the wee hours; it didn't even matter who the guests were, we were thrilled to have them in our homes for the night. (I should be honest here and admit that, back then, I was thrilled to hear the national anthem and see the patriotic montage which marked the end of the broadcast day. It meant I had succeeded in staying awake long past my usual bedtime.)
Although Jerry's show was the longest running national telethon, it wasn't the first. That distinction belongs to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation telethon, hosted by Milton Berle in 1949. I didn't think they even had television in those days. I don't know what the viewership was, but it was enough to raise more than a million dollars for the cause.
Not long after that precedent-setting telethon, another enduring fundraiser was born: Trick or Treat for UNICEF. I remember participating at least once, collecting spare change in a small orange canister on my Halloween rounds. Do you know the full name of UNICEF? Wrong. It's the United Nations Children's Fund. It began as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, but the name was shortened in 1953. They kept the acronym, however, because UNCF is too hard to pronounce.
I also remember carrying a canister for the March of Dimes, way back when they really did solicit dimes. I hope they don't upgrade their name to March of Dollars; it just doesn't have the same ring to it. Actually, the official name of the organization was the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The March of Dimes was the foundation's annual fundraiser. Being much easier to remember and pronounce, the title stuck and in 1976, the organization's name was officially changed to the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Now it's simply the March of Dimes Foundation.
The March of Dimes started the whole walkathon phenomenon back in 1970.
Within a few years, WalkAmerica, now known as the March for Babies, became a nationwide effort. My high school classmates and I participated in the first Maui walk, from Wailuku to Maalaea. At least, I think that was the route. I don't remember exactly where we started or finished, but I have vivid memories of being among a gaggle of giggling girls traipsing along Honoapiilani Highway. The route was long enough to make a deep impression on our teenage leg muscles, I remember that.
Since then, many groups and good causes have adopted the successful format. Today you can participate in a walkathon nearly every weekend. Now, I'm all in favor of walking for charity, but I'm glad the MDA came up with the Lock-Up idea. Air-conditioned confinement with a good meal to boot sounds a lot more appealing than getting sweaty in my sneakers.
On the other hand, I'm sweating pretty hard now, having waited too long to start raising my bail. I'm guilty of procrastination and begging for mercy. Or at least a couple of dollars. If you would like to contribute to the fight against muscle disease and help ease my stress, please go to www.mda.org/lockup and click on "Find a Jailbird." Enter my name and you'll be taken to my personal page where you can make a credit-card donation. With your help, next week's column won't be written behind bars. Mahalo.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.