Martha and Brian Cornell

Donor Stories


With deep roots in Sarasota and a commitment to making a difference in communities they hold dear, Brian and Martha Cornell recently made a $10 million gift to support the creation of the Behavioral Health Pavilion at SMH. The gift will help fund comprehensive mental health services at a time when the pandemic and other ongoing crises have further illuminated the need to support those struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

The Cornells originally moved to Sarasota in 1994 when Brian worked for Tropicana. Today, Brian is Target Corp. Chairman and CEO, and while the family hasn’t lived here full-time since 1999, they consider Siesta Key their adopted home. The Cornells are a close-knit family: Their son and his family are permanent residents here, and Martha says they stay in daily contact with their daughter who lives with her family in Westport, Connecticut. Brian proudly added that both of their kids met their spouses while in either elementary or middle school here in Sarasota and have added four grandchildren to the Cornell clan in recent years.

“Our family is very, very close,” says Martha. “We speak to our kids every day and have become regulars on FaceTime with our grandchildren.” Last year, Brian and Martha added another member to their family: Sidney, an adorable Bernedoodle they refer to as their “COVID puppy.”

Bringing a Culture of Care to Sarasota
The Cornells’ decision to support the Behavioral Health Pavilion was fueled in part by the culture at Target. Brian says the company has long been committed to creating a culture built on care and prioritizes mental health and well-being for all families. “We’re always listening to our team to ensure we’re providing the resources, space and support they and their families need,” he says. Prior to the pandemic, Target offered resources including free counseling sessions for team members and their families. During the pandemic, Target added free access to additional resources, including digital tools to help with everything from improving sleep to navigating stress and worry, in addition to 24/7 personalized guidance and support that includes access to licensed counselors. Brian has been moved by messages he receives from team members who have opened up about their struggles. “By opening the dialogue, those experiencing mental health challenges themselves, or within their family, recognize they are not alone,” he says.

Brian and Martha knew their decision to direct their gift toward the Behavioral Health Pavilion would have a positive impact on many lives in our community. “Many of us have a family member or a friend who suffers from anxiety, depression or other forms of mental illness,” says Martha. “Our goal is to help provide the best care to community members in need and help break the stigma attached to mental illness.”

“Sarasota Memorial has a proven track record for creating world-class medical facilities with a focus on patient care,” adds Brian. After meeting with the leaders of SMH and the Healthcare Foundation, he and Martha were confident that the state-of-the-art facility would set a new standard for behavioral health care, not just here, but across the country.

The Cornells also noted how passionate the SMH team is and how committed they are to building an exceptional behavioral health program, which includes attracting nationally recognized specialists and advancing the latest evidence-based therapies. Brian says that at Target they strive to attract, build and retain the best team in retail, and he and Martha are confident that SMH will build the best team in behavioral health.

Giving From the Heart
The Cornells’ credo is “make the most out of every day.” Even with Brian’s business success, he and Martha never take anything for granted. Giving back and helping others keeps the family grounded. “You’ve got to make the most of both your personal and professional time,” says Brian. “Most importantly, you must remain humble and empathetic.”

By supporting the Behavioral Health Program at SMH, the Cornells’ gift will make a huge impact in an area that is often underserved yet affects countless families every day. It is their hope that their action will inspire others to support similar projects elsewhere.


In recognition of their gift, the new facility will be named the Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion at SMH. Learn more.

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