Aj Project

AJ was my son. When he died a part of me died. I started this non profit to remember him and to be like him and make a difference in peoples lives. #4AJ @4theajproject

  • published Aj's Story in About AJ- In his own words 2016-02-27 17:09:20 -0500

    AJ Perrelli's Story

    written by his mother, Christine Perrelli

    AJ Perrelli

    August 5, 1987—October 16, 2013

    There is a saying, "Live every day like it's your last." Some people just get it, they figure out how to get the most out of life and use every one of the 1,440 minutes in a day.

    It is often the people who touch our lives for the shortest time that are the hardest to forget. AJ's 26 years of life were full of many adventures, many friends and many laughs and in 2013 he tragically passed away from a head injury.

    In his life journey AJ's story spanned over 40 countries, touched thousands of people and represented his innate ability to promote human connection. When word got out that AJ was in the hospital in critical condition his Facebook page exploded. Family, friends, friends of friends and complete strangers became glued to social media looking for updates. Over 800 pages of post where made as the world followed his journey. Admiration was shared on his passion for life, appreciation of his talents and love of his family and friends. People followed, they shared stores, and they prayed for a miracle. That miracle never manifested.


    And even after he was gone the posts continued: 

    "AJ did more in his 26 years than many of us do in a lifetime". "He traveled, worked hard and played hard". "He was the "glue" who kept his friends together and the kind of guy who would go out of his way to see you if you where in town even if it was for 5 minutes". "He was "that" guy, the one you could call to talk, bitch or go on an adventure with". "He would do anything for you and did not expect anything in return". "I don't know him but wish I did. This kid lived life to the fullest!" "I met him once and he was someone I will never forget" "The world lost someone really special today, a rare breed, someone who understood human interaction".

    Family was a priority for AJ. His parents, siblings and grandparents were his world. He tried to be a second father to his brothers, Michael and Nick, as well as a role model and protector to his sister, Kitty. It was important for him to share his knowledge of life in an attempt to protect them from some of the heartaches and difficulties he experienced. He was the favorite cousin, the favorite uncle and even the favorite grandson. AJ always stayed in touch calling regularly to share his latest adventure. You just couldn't wait to hear his voice!

    He was a first time father to be. Only two weeks before his accident he informed his family that he and his girlfriend, Teresa were expecting a child. His little boy, Luca was born on Cinco De mayo…a very appropriate homage to his Daddy who always loved a reason to party.


    He took his career plan very seriously and always involved himself in something or with someone to make his work as an actor and dancer improve. In working to perfect his craft AJ researched opportunities, auditioned constantly, took classes and studied hard. AJ was passionate and determined and always thought of himself as a serious dramatic actor. Come to find out, his comedic timing was incredible. Credit: Psychodrama the web-series. 

    Work as a performer kept AJ on the road for over 2 years where he visited over 40 countries performing as Goofy and a principle dancer for the Disney Live Show and in 2012, AJ graduated from one of the top 25 Drama schools in the nation, The William Esper Studio.

    AJ always found time to work with film students at NYU Tisch School for the Arts as an actor for their film study classes. He did this for several aspiring directors and helped give feedback to the production teams and student actors. Some of the work is quite good and some was really bad. When he did these however, he never outright knocked the bad. He always remembered that he had to start somewhere and was lucky enough to have the right people guiding him along on his journey.



    Just before his passing AJ worked as a swing performer for the original Village People as the Cowboy. Yes, he was on stage singing the YMCA in costume alongside the Construction Worker, Cop, Indian, Biker and Army dude. AJ was particuarily proud of this opportunity because he grew up listening to this music with his father and the personal connection made the professional connection that much stronger. His time with them was less than a year and he performed 6 shows before his passing. He might have been a bit young for the group but they loved him and when the new Cowboy, Jim Newman, was cast they asked AJ to continue to perform as swing for not only the Cowboy, but the Construction Worker and Biker as well.

    When actors become famous it is always fun to hear what other jobs they did to survive. AJ had no shortage of odd jobs that would have been a fun quip on a talk show someday. When he first returned back to NYC he landed a job at a pretty famous restaurant located across from Carnegie Hall. When he got the job he claimed it was the best audition for an acting job he ever did. In NY waiters are professionals and AJ was far from a professional. In fact he had never waited a table in his life. He went in there and basically acted his way into a job. He used to joke that he was the Charlie Chaplin of waiters and should have been fired after the first week.

    His next part time job would be at Dave and Busters, in Times Square, where he would go up to tables and offer to take their picture and give them a key chain. Through his work at Dave & Busters, AJ met a designer, Raymond. AJ approached his table and did his spiel. Raymond looked down and asked if AJ was a size 9 shoe. He was and AJ became the very first shoe model for the brand new launch of a Tommy Bahamas shoe line.

    AJ's final casting call was one he was not able to attend. After AJ's burial, when things were settling down, AJ's parents retrieved his email and phone messages. AJ was asked personally by the Emmy award winning choreographer Mia Michaels to audition for an upcoming Broadway show Finding Neverland. While we might be biased we think he would of nailed it! Neverland was in his top 10 favorite movies and Mia was his favorite choreographer.

    AJ's final act was that of organ donor. His gifts of life included his heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver and corneas. Although his decision to be an organ donor did not transfer to his New York State license, he and his mother had a conversation regarding his wishes when he was 18. Because of that and knowing how AJ's gifts could hopefully keep another family from going through the pain of loss 5 families lives where changed when on his sisters 21st birthday the donation surgery was performed.

    If AJ were here today, and this terrible loss happened to one of his family or friends, we know that AJ would have been the first one at the hospital, the first to gather the troupes to support the family and the first one to say YES!; I will do anything it takes to be a part of something to remember them by.

    In his spirit we ask that you become a part of The AJ Project Family and continue the Ripple Effect that AJ started. Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, sign up on the website, participate in an event, create an event, your help is greatly appreciated no matter how big or small. #4AJ - You can join our family here


  • published Monthly Giving in Donate 2016-02-11 17:45:09 -0500

    Thank You for your monthly support!

    $40.00 raised
    GOAL: $260,000.00

  • published Individual Gift in Donate 2016-02-11 17:00:29 -0500

    Thank you for your support!

    $12,615.00 raised
    GOAL: $260,000.00

  • published In his own Words in From AJ 2015-09-19 23:59:45 -0400

    In his own words: “About Me”

    One month before he passed away, AJ finally finished his website.

    On there he wrote an “About Me.” These are his words.


    About Me

    First the fun stuff. I am the oldest of four children, a native New Yorker, I love all music from Mozart to Marilyn Manson and everything in between, and a little fun fact, I know the tune to practically every song in history and the words to almost absolutely NONE of them ;-) Now my story.

    At the age of three or four, I pointed (so I've been told) at the television screen in our small railroad apartment in Astoria, looked up to my mother and father and told them that I wanted to go THERE. They thought I was referring to Sesame Street. Of course that probably would have been a fantastic idea, but I think I was truthfully referring to the shows, movies, and stories that were constantly captivating me as a child.

    By the age of ten, I started to do children’s musicals and plays with local theaters. By twelve, I was in the recording studio doing voiceover work for children’s shows and “English as a second language” tapes. By thirteen, I was told you needed be a "triple threat" and realized that I had two left feet and couldn’t dance.

    I decided (after some convincing) that I would start to attend a tap and jazz class just to shake off the awkwardness. Apparently there was some dance in me after all. Nine months later I was offered a full ride scholarship to a dance school in Orlando, Florida. I practically lived in the studio and started to do all forms of dance.  I had the fortunate experience of winning scholarships to New York and California to study even further and also become part of DDK, a pro am dance troupe. Remember this was way before it was cool to be a male dancer but I did it and loved it.

    Five years later I was looking at a professional dance career.  I started scoping out ballet companies to audition for after high school graduation and hoped to get to the next level.  Well, as the adults and teachers in your life tell you, and as the semi old adage goes...“you should always have a backup because you never know what could happen.  Dance is physical and you could have an accident and your career is over.”  I didn’t have a backup, nor did I want one.  I knew that I wanted to be on stage, sharing myself and story telling.  This was the only life for me.

    As luck would have it, three weeks before high school graduation, I was involved in a horrible car crash.  I graduated high school in a wheelchair and my newly found dreams of becoming a professional dancer was dashing away.  I was told by the doctors that it would take between a year and a half to two years to completely recover to normalcy and also to “find a new ambition”.  They suggested that I would not be able to dance after the surgeries and the rod they put in my thigh attached to my femur may not allow me to gain my full strength.  I had a choice and my “I don’t have time for this” kicked in.

    Within four months, I was out of my wheelchair.  Within one year, I was dancing again in my first show.  From there,  I decided to push the envelope and stare the “you can’t do this” in the eye.  I trained and was hired to became a professional stilt walker with Universal Studios.  My next goal was the arial arts and the silks.  I did that too.  I worked with several cirque companies throughout Central Florida.

    After landing an international tour with Disney Live and Feld Entertainment, I traveled Asia and Europe for three years as an actor, dancer, and puppeteer.  When I decided to leave the tour, I knew it was time to return to my roots and true passion.  I knew that my dance shelf life would be coming to an end sooner than later. I also knew the longevity and strength it took to be on stage was getting more difficult for me due to my injuries.

    Not so sure what I was going to do I moved to New York.  I had some fear for the first time in my life.  I auditioned for dance gigs, did some commercial work and picked up odd jobs to keep the money flowing.  What if I couldn't do this? Be this?  

    It was then that it hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was as if the clouds had cleared.  I became so obvious to me that EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  I would have never stopped dancing, and would have never been able to fully return and commit to my original and still very alive dream of being a professional and well trained actor if it weren’t for some bigger power putting something like an accident of that nature in my way.

    It was at that point I put the dance shoes back on the shelf for a while.  I applied for and was accepted to The William Esper Acting Studio.  I diligently studied in many different classes of the craft and completed the two year acting program in May 2012. Since then my life has been committed to growing and learning within my craft as an actor.

    I am applying my life experience and world travel to my work to become the fullest, sharpest, and most flexible and available actor I can be.  Although I always continue my studies, and there is always more to learn, everything that I have acquired and brought to the table seems to be working wonderfully.

    I am proud to say that I am now a consistently working actor in film, television, and theatre, and can’t wait to grow within my craft, myself, and my career.

    Thank you for coming to my website, and I’m very excited to work with you soon!

    AJ Perrelli

    AJ passed away at the age of 26 from a head injury.  His life's journey has inspired many artist's to pursue their passions in the arts, created the conversation about organ donation and inspired the launch of The AJ Project. 
    Like us, Follow us- Instagram us @4theajproject - The AJ Project 501(c)3 

  • published About AJ- In his own words 2015-09-19 23:23:00 -0400

  • published Founders in About 2015-07-13 21:53:54 -0400


    12-29Chris-7657.jpgChristine Perrelli (Executive Director and AJ's Mom) aka "Momma" to many. It is with great pride that she leads The AJ Project and its endeavors to foster the life skills and the talents of emerging artists just as she did for her son. As a mother of four very artistic children and wife of a freelance cameraman and editor, Christine found that her Type A personality was a strong balance to the creative forces that surrounded her. Christine recognized and was fully involved in AJ's love for entertaining and encouraged him to try a variety of outlets and artistic disciplines.

    Professionally, Christine owned a video production events company and was also the director of sales and marketing for a major corporation. She was one of the first females to land a position as a director of audio visual for a major NYC company, and she has also been successful in the world of real estate.

    For the past two years Christine has sat monthly for the  LiveOnNY ECHO committee giving donor family insight to case studies presented to hospitals and health care personal involved in organ donation. 

    CN_Headphoto.JPGChristina Neubrand (Program Director) Christina met AJ in 2009 while visiting a friend in Spain who happened to be on the same Disney Live tour. They connected immediately and stayed in touch. Ironically, they both ended up in NYC in 2010. At The Looking Glass Theatre, Christina cast AJ in his first NYC play. From there, she continued to support AJ as he began working toward a life in New York in the arts. No matter how busy AJ was he made it a point to support her artistic endeavors, be there as a true friend and ultimately became a very important part of her life.

    Christina holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from StephenF.AustinStateUniversity and an MA in Educational Theatre from New YorkUniversity’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development Department of Performing Arts Professions. She is currently a freelance arts education practitioner, curriculum developer and is working with Power Brain Education to develop schools that promote holistic learning. Christina is excited to be a part of The AJ Project and looks forward to its future!


We are an arts org. We bring professional and emerging artist together to raise funds and awareness to important critical issues and causes. We champion the importance of organ donor registration. Why? #4AJ
$1,430.00 raised
GOAL: $100,000.00
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