Telethons, marathons and teleramas: Researching Wish ‘Em Well

[Courtesy of City of Hope Archives]

What’s the difference between a telethon, marathon, and a telerama when it involves fundraising? While drafting “Wish ‘Em Well: Raising Funds to Fight Cancer” for City of Hope’s City News magazine, my research began with learning about the history of telethons since TV Telethon appears on the hats of the women, men, and children posing for the photo seen here.  Then I spent time going through the Archives collections to see what I could find out.

General research revealed that Milton Berle hosted the first telethon in 1949 for the Damon Runyan Cancer Foundation while City of Hope held its first telethon in 1951. Telethons were also held in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1959.

The Archives collections include records (correspondence, clippings, script cards, and a receipt book) related to the 1951, 1952, and 1953 telethons. The 1951 and 1952 records use telethon and marathon when referring to the event.

[Courtesy of City of Hope Archives]

In the midst of researching telethons, I received an online invitation from Donald W. Ballard, author of Disneyland hotel 1954-1959: The Little Motel in the Middle of the Orange Grove to view a 1957 “telerama”, a live television benefit broadcast in Southern California on KTLA (Channel 5) to raise funds for City of Hope.  Ultimately, telethon seemed like the best word to use to describe the event.


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