Tony's Story

In 1973, T.J. Martell was a high school student battling leukemia.

He asked his father, Tony, to raise a million dollars for cancer research so that “no one else will have to experience what I am going through.” Although Tony had no fundraising experience, he agreed.

Two years later, T.J. died at the age of nineteen, and that put Tony’s promise in cement. Soon after, Tony was joined by many of his friends in the music industry like Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington to hold a fundraiser at Buddy Rich’s nightclub in New York. They raised $50,000 and the T.J. Martell Foundation was born.

Over the years, we have kept the Foundation’s roots deep in the music industry and hundreds of volunteers have worked passionately with our staff to raise more than $280 million for cancer research which has been successfully leveraged into several billion dollars in additional funding from larger funding sources. We are proud of our long history and our reputation for innovation in fundraising and the research we support.


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