Ralph Edwards, host of the hit TV series, "This is Your Life," kicked off the public fundraising efforts on his Dec. 3, 1958 show when he featured Arizona crewmember and Medal of Honor recipient Samuel Fuqua. More than $95,000 was raised.
But contributions and attention dwindled over the next couple years, with less than half of the $500,000 raised. Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, read about the stalled efforts in the Los Angeles Examiner.
Presley, who was already scheduled to be in the islands to film "Blue Hawaii," agreed to help by performing a benefit concert. It was his last live stage performance for more than eight years.
"Both of these celebrities, one that kicked it off and one that came to its aid two years later, are important," Martinez said. "I think this is the beginning of the influence of celebrities in national campaigns of fundraising in our country. ... It wasn't just a concert. It was an event that had national attention and media coverage."