As some of you have already heard, my longtime colleague Gerry Balasta, fellow NYC Occupational Therapist died of COVID 19 on April 18th 2020. I had known and worked with Gerry for over 20 years; he was just embarking on his latest entrepreneurial venture, Wonderful Beginnings, an EI and early childhood center that he was opening with Lea, his beloved wife, a physician. I can think of no better way to honor him than with this scholarship.
Gerry loved life, his Queens community, his chosen field of Occupational Therapy and was proud of his Filipino roots. He had many stories to tell about people and used his OT background, and innate people skills in film making. After taking courses in film production at NYU, he went on to create, direct and produce his first film in 2010,THE MOUNTAIN THIEF which told the story of the people of Patayas, one of the Philippines’ largest dumpsite towns. Gerry masterfully told the story of the people of the town who live off the mountains of trash in dumpsite towns but manage to retain their dignity and thankfulness for life,. The film had a hugely successful film festival run,won the Special Jury Prize at the San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival, The Prix Du Public (Audience Award) at CCIFF, France and the George C. Lin Emerging Filmmaker Award in Washington DC. In 2012, he founded The Mount Hope Project Inc., a charitable organization with the mission of using films and the arts to make a direct impact on lives. He also founded The Mount Hope Initiative in the Philippines where the children and the actors of his workshop in the dump site town had medical care and are now going to school, to give them options outside of scavenging for trash. He recently sold a pediatric entity in NY to his partners, so that he could embark on another clinic.
The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable, scientific and educational organization founded in 1965. It serves the public interest by supporting occupational therapy research and increasing public understanding of the important relationship between everyday activities (occupations) and health. It accomplishes its aims primarily through grants and scholarships, through programs, and through publications. The money raised for the Gerry Balasta Scholarship Fund will be used exclusively for prospective Occupational Therapy Students applying to any of the accredited Occupational Therapy programs In NYS in 2021.
I know that these are trying times financially for many practice owners and their families, and any donation,no matter the amount will help to honor the legacy of this great therapist. Thank you in advance, and please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions. All donations are tax deductible.