T.J. Martell Foundation
Tony's Story

It began with a promise I made to my dying son.

In 1973, my son, T.J. Martell, was a high school student battling leukemia. He asked me to raise a million dollars for cancer research so that “no one else will have to experience what I am going through.” Although I had no fundraising experience, I agreed.

Two years later, T.J. died at the age of nineteen, and that put my promise in cement. Soon after, I was joined by many of my 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. We 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 $260 million for leukemia, cancer and AIDS 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.

Tony Martell, Founder and Chairman