Sweeney, Lythgoe and their co-hosts Nancy O'Dell and Jann Carl opened last night's telethon by praising Jerry Lewis, who exited as MDA's honorary chairman in August.
American Idol executive producer Lythgoe said of Lewis: "What you have done for this organisation and its families is something close to a miracle. I know that we all want to carry on your legacy… I trust that we will continue to be successful."
Watch the MDA Telethon hosts' tribute to Jerry Lewis below:
Throughout the six-hour telecast, Celine Dion, the American Idol judges and the co-hosts of The View all urged viewers to help the fight against muscular dystrophy.
Darius Rucker, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and Jordin Sparks were among the musical performers.
MDA raised more than $61.5m by the end of the evening, topping the 2009 and 2010 totals.
The first MDA Telethon was held in 1959, eventually becoming an annual Labour Day weekend tradition by the late 1960s.
> Paul Rodriguez, Larry Miller protest Jerry Lewis telethon exit
Watch Celine Dion perform on the 2011 MDA Telethon below: