May 8, 1997
Media Contact: Debbie Bangeldorf
Phone: (410)223-1731


Co-hosts Mary Beth Marsden and Stan Stovall from WMAR with this year's Telethon ambassadors. See text for details.

Plans are in the final stages for the 14th annual WMAR-TV Children's Miracle Network Telethon to air from 9 p.m., Saturday, May 31, to 6 p.m., Sunday, June 1. All money raised goes directly to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

The Telethon caps a yearlong fund-raising effort and is part of an event for 165 children's hospitals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Jamaica. Funded in part by the Osmond Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the Osmond family of entertainers, the national portion of the show airs live from Disney World.

In Baltimore, NewsChannel 2's Mary Beth Marsden and Stan Stovall co-host the 21-hour program, which includes appearances by Children's Center ambassadors, staff, patients, parents and help from more than 1,200 volunteers. Also appearing will be Telethon chairperson Joan Marshall, vice president and general manager for AT&T's Maryland and District of Columbia operations. The broadcasts will be from WMAR-TV's studios, the Children's Center, and other locations in Baltimore.

This year's Telethon ambassadors are Lakeisha Ojo, Ben Keyes, and Vinnie Iuliano. Lakeisha, 11, has been treated by the Children's Center pediatric cardiology team for more than 10 years. She has undergone multiple surgeries to repair defective heart valves and has a pacemaker. She is in the sixth grade at Loch Raven Academy in Baltimore.

Eighteen months ago, Ben, 12, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) in his left leg. After chemotherapy and the removal of part of his knee, he developed tumors in his lungs and rest of his leg. Last June, Ben had additional surgeries to amputate the remainder of his leg and remove the lung nodules. Today, he is participating in a Phase I drug study, which is designed to reduce the tumors. Ben is a sixth grader in the home-teaching program at Havre de Grace Middle School.

More than two years ago, Vinnie, 9, was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, a form of kidney cancer. He had surgery to remove the tumor and was placed on a 60-week outpatient chemotherapy protocol. Later, another tumor appeared on Vinnie's left lung near his heart and he had another surgery. To lessen the chances of more tumors, Vinnie received a stem cell transplant in which doctors took the child's own premature blood cells and transplanted them back into him, along with another round of chemotherapy. Today, he is doing well and is in the fourth grade at St. Mary's School in Hagerstown, MD.

Also part of the Telethon is the 106 hours that WMIX Morning Show Hosts JoJo Girard and Kenny Campbell spend on the air. From 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 28, to 4 p.m., June 1, the pair will be live on 106.5 FM to raise funds for the Children's Center. Last year, they generated $336,000.

"Funds raised locally stay here to help the Children's Center," says Center director and pediatrician-in-chief George J. Dover, M.D. "We are grateful to NewsChannel 2, MIX 106.5 and the community for helping us support existing programs and begin new projects for children in Baltimore and our surrounding neighborhoods."

Over the last 13 years, the Telethon has raised more than $17 million to support such Children's Center programs as Child Life, the pediatric emergency department, family resource library, hospice care, and a home-based dialysis program. This year, new projects receiving support included the purchase of bedside parent sleep chairs, computer support for teenagers with cystic fibrosis, equipment for the pediatric intensive care unit's transport service, and two research studies: one to reduce injuries to youth involved in violence; the other to evaluate children injured in motor vehicle accidents for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the leadership of Steve Gigliotti, vice president and general manager of WMAR-TV, the station donates air time for the Telethon. Alan Hay is vice president and general manager at MIX, which donates 106 hours of radio air time.

The Johns Hopkins Children's Center is the children's hospital of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Maryland's most comprehensive acute-care hospital for children, the Center, with its 177 beds and more than 40 divisions and services, treats 8,000 inpatients and more than 64,000 outpatients annually. Its pediatric emergency department treats 26,000 annually.

-- JHMI --
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