The Board of Directors of The ESTA Foundation has just awarded the first Behind the Scenes grant to Christian Choi, an 18-year industry veteran lighting director and moving light programmer whose career was derailed by a back injury sustained on the job and two difficult surgeries.

Choi has been out of work for almost two years, so instead of building his career, he has been depleting his resources, including his retirement savings. He knew that with physical therapy, he could get back to work, but he couldn’t find a way to pay for it. His career had gone from success and security to wondering how he would pay the next month's rent.

Choi was encouraged to apply for a Behind the Scenes grant by an industry colleague, but he was initially skeptical, not believing help could really be available. “When I was first told about the grant, I thought it was just for ESTA members, which I am not. A very kind soul once again reminded me about it and sent me the application. She stressed the importance of the Behind the Scenes grant and that I was a potential candidate as I’ve recently had another major spinal surgery,” Christian writes. “I filled in the necessary paperwork and within a week I heard back from the Foundation that I had been awarded a grant to help me literally get on my feet and to continue to keep a roof over our heads. We were in shock, then the relief set in.”

After reviewing Christian's application, the Application for Assistance Review Committee realized that his situation was dire and needed to be addressed immediately. The committee requested the Foundation's Board meet in emergency session to review their recommendation to fund a grant. The Foundation's Board recognized that if Christian could be assured of a roof over his head and regular physical therapy, he could manage his pain, regain his strength and resume the career he had been forced to leave in mid-stride. Christian's career has included work in theatre, concert tours, corporate industrials, and television.

Upon learning of his grant, Choi wrote, "Words can't express how thankful and relieved we are. We've gone from complete destitution to hope and I just can't thank the Foundation enough for that."

Behind the Scenes is an initiative of the ESTA Foundation to provide industry members with financial support when they are seriously ill or injured. Behind the Scenes provides qualified eligible individuals with grants that may be used for medical care, living expenses, and funeral expenses. Behind the Scenes is made possible by contributions from industry members. Because the program is still in its infancy in terms of fundraising, the program will be able to provide only a limited number of grants this year. Rick Rudolph, chair of the Behind the Scenes Committee, comments, “It's so important for us as an industry to care for our colleagues when they are in need. The more people give right now the more people we will be able to assist this year and into the future."

For more information about contributing to Behind the Scenes or applying for a grant visit www.estafoundation.org/bts.htm.