Local man describes lasting legacy of comedian and humanitarian Jerry Lewis

NOW: Local man describes lasting legacy of comedian and humanitarian Jerry Lewis

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Legendary comedian, film maker, and humanitarian Jerry Lewis died Sunday at the age of 91-years-old.

Known as much more than a performer, Lewis was the national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Through his charitable efforts they’ve been able to raise billions of dollars to fund research into the debilitating disease.

“As a child I remember seeing his comedy of course I didn’t realize that would play a bigger impact on my life later on,” says Jim Felix.

Felix was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy as a teenager. Now 51-years-old, it’s progressed to the point where he must use a wheel chair and live in a nursing home.

“I have my moments at times where I feel sad. I try not to dwell on things too much I try to keep my mind occupied other things,” says Felix.

Felix became involved in the local broadcast of MDA’s annual telethon. In 1998 he received an award for his work with the organization.

He says those efforts were in part inspired by Lewis. As the MDA’s national chairperson, Lewis’ platform provided hope to “Jerry’s kids” all over the nation for nearly half a century.

“I can’t even explain the gratitude that I have for all the years that he tried. To me, anybody who makes an effort to help out the best they can is gold in my eyes,” says Felix.

While Lewis did not see a cure in his lifetime, research has come a long way. Felix say’s Lewis dedication has left him optimistic a fix could be in his future.

“He just gave a lot of hope to people like myself and did everything he could to deliver the knock-out punch for the disease and I think that it’ll show. That will always be how I will remember him because he fought as hard as he could,” says Felix.

MDA Chairman of the Board R. Rodney Howell, M.D., released the following statement about Lewis’ passing:

 “The Muscular Dystrophy Association is deeply saddened by the death of beloved comedian, performer, humanitarian and former MDA telethon star and national chairman Jerry Lewis.

MDA would not be the organization it is today if it were not for Jerry’s tireless efforts on behalf of “his kids.” His enthusiasm for finding cures for neuromuscular disease was matched only by his unyielding commitment to see the fight through to the end. Jerry’s efforts on the annual MDA Telethon transformed the broadcast into an American tradition each Labor Day weekend for 45 years.

MDA and the families we serve will always be grateful for the thousands of hours he dedicated through the telethon, which provided MDA with a platform to honor and acknowledge our longtime corporate partners and educate the American public who generously donated millions of dollars for unparalleled research and services.

Jerry’s love, passion and brilliance are woven throughout this organization, which he helped build from the ground up.

Though we will miss him beyond measure, we suspect that somewhere in heaven, he’s already urging the angels to give ‘just one dollar more for my kids. Thank you Jerry, you are our hero. God bless you. We send our deepest condolences to his wife Sam; his daughter, Danielle; his sons, Gary, Ronald, Scott, Christopher and Anthony; and the entire Lewis family.”

To donate to MDA, click here.

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