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Remembering Anthony Pantaleoni, a True Champion for Children

November 18, 2021

UNICEF USA honors the life of Anthony “Tony” Pantaleoni, a dedicated advocate for the world’s children. 

Anthony “Tony” Pantaleoni was just a boy when his mother, actress and humanitarian Helenka Pantaleoni, mobilized a group of women to travel to Washington, D.C. in 1947, rallying Congressional support for a new United Nations organization devoted to the care and protection of children, called UNICEF. 

Her efforts led to the founding of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, now UNICEF USA, and the start of what would be Tony Pantaleoni's lifelong dedication to the rights and futures of the world's children. 

A lifelong dedication to the rights and futures of the world's children

From those early days to his two terms on the UNICEF USA National Board, including five years as Chairman of the Board, Pantaleoni's life was guided by a sense of responsibility to the next generation. 

During his tenure, he mobilized resources and awareness for UNICEF’s response to the Horn of Africa famine, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, among other urgent humanitarian needs. He also supported the creation of the UNICEF USA Bridge Fund, which provides flexible capital so UNICEF can act swiftly in an emergency, and the End Trafficking Project. 

Tony was an incomparable leader and an incomparable person.

"Tony was an incomparable leader and an incomparable person," recalls Brian Meyers, UNICEF USA Regional Vice President of Strategic Integration for the East Coast. "He was so warm, so welcoming, and he had an amazing sense of humor. Even in a serious moment, he could disarm people with his charm. He really was a North Star, always focused on doing what's right. He grew up with UNICEF. His goal was to serve children. Giving back was in his blood."

Meyers traveled with Pantaleoni and his daughter, UNICEF Ambassador and UNICEF USA National Board Member Téa Leoni, on a field visit to Haiti in 2012, and remembers his instant rapport with the children he met there. "Tony would kneel down, get as close as possible on their level and ask questions. He really wanted to understand what their lives were like. He was an excellent listener."

In honor of their family’s decades of unwavering support for UNICEF, father and daughter were honored with the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award at the 2007 UNICEF Snowflake Ball.

When Pantaleoni stepped down from the UNICEF USA National Board after 16 years, he reminisced about his history with the organization, noting that: “These are memories that I will not soon, if ever, lay to rest.”

UNICEF USA won’t soon lay to rest Anthony Pantaleoni’s impact on the organization, or his desire to support and empower every child. Our deepest condolences go to his daughter, Téa, his family and friends. 

Top photo: Anthony Pantaleoni and his daughter, Téa Leoni, both dedicated advocates for children, were honored with the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award at the 2007 UNICEF Snowflake Ball. Pantaleoni, who passed away on October 28, 2021, served two terms on the UNICEF USA National Board of Directors, including five years as Chairman of the Board. Leoni is a UNICEF Ambassador and UNICEF USA National Board Member. © UNICEF USA