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Comedian’s Legacy Lives On With Muscular Dystrophy Association

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Comedian, actor and filmmaker, Jerry Lewis left behind decades worth of precious moments and laughs through his work on the big screen and in television, but it was his devotion to the Muscular Dystrophy Association that may provide his most appreciated legacy.

Lewis’ Labor Day telethons helped raised more than $2 billion over four decades and some of those funds went to assist children from around our community.

Alexander Vargas, 12, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy almost six years ago. He’s made it his mission to help people better understand the disease.

“I personally, want to be treated like any other person; I do not want to be seen as a machine,” he said.

As a goodwill ambassador for MDA, Vargas speaks to companies helping raise money for research that he hopes will soon lead to a cure from the life-threatening disease that continues to take away people’s physical strength, independence and life.

“I’m absolutely sure there are kids who feel the same way – like, asking for help is defeat, they do not conquer their disease, their disease conquered them,” said Vargas.

Comic film legend and the MDA’s national chairman, Lewis lead the fight against muscular dystrophy and motivated countless young people like Vargas to continue his legacy.

Although the organization has lost one of its biggest supporters, families say the important work happening in communities across the country will continue.

“His legacy still lives on and that is what we are trying to do and trying to educate and informed people about, you know muscular dystrophy, there are over 43 different types, ALS being one of them and a lot of people aren’t familiar,” said Heather Bertuccelli, executive director of MDA Northern California.

No one really knows for sure why Lewis became a big supporter of MDA, but through his involvement, the organization has been able to find life-saving medicine including four new drugs passed by the Federal Drug Administration just in the last eight months with more trials underway. MD life expectancy has doubled, just in the past five years. Research built on the shoulders of a comedian committed to finding a cure.

“It’s a tremendous loss. My sympathy goes out to his family, and I know there are thousands of families just like mine that are mourning his loss,” said Jennifer Vargas, who has helped fundraise for the organization for about six years.

Lewis was 91 years old. He died of heart failure Sunday in Las Vegas.

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