The ESTA Foundation’s Behind the Scenes announces the first two Challenge Grants during the USITT Annual Conference and Stage Expo. I. Weiss and Sapsis Rigging will both be sponsoring $5,000 challenge grants at the upcoming USITT Raffle, March 15 – 17 in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to both companies coming forward after the announcement of the Challenge Grant Program every dollar donated at this year’s USITT will triple in value.

Established challenge grant slots are still available for the Behind the Scenes / Long Reach Long Riders 2007 USITT Raffle, March 15 – 17 in Phoenix, Arizona at $5,000 each (four openings left) and The Long Reach Long Riders 2007 New England Charity Ride, July 29 – August 6 at $10,000 each (two openings).

David Rosenberg, president of I. Weiss, explains that it was an easy decision for his company. “We believe that we should be supportive of the technicians and production people in our own industry. They are the people that make things happen and unfortunately not all of them have the advantage of being covered by health insurance. I think that The ESTA Foundation’s decision to start Behind the Scenes was a really wonderful idea. It is a way for companies like us to give something back. We are a behind the scenes company and the people who work behind the scenes are part of our team and deserve our support when in need. Also, USITT is where people thinking of making a career in this industry come into contact with companies like ours and we want them to see that there is a responsibility that comes along with getting a job in our industry. They should recognize that part of the responsibility of any working individual or good company is to give back and be supportive of their colleagues.”

Bill Sapsis of Sapsis Rigging, Inc. points out, “The challenge grant program is a perfect fit. It is an extension of what we have been doing all along to support Behind the Scenes. By participating in the program at USITT, we can help raise the awareness level of people that don’t yet have the work experience and have not necessarily heard about the Behind the Scenes program. USITT is a unique chance for students to learn about what a future in our industry means and that there is an organization available to help those that find themselves in financial difficulty.”

Behind the Scenes provides financial assistance to entertainment technology professionals who are seriously ill or injured. Funds may be used for medical expenses, funeral expenses, or basic living expenses such as mortgage, rent, utilities, food, transportation, and childcare. Funds are available to anyone who has worked at least five years full time in the entertainment technology industry—whether they're on the road or in a rental shop; they're a TD or the head of R&D; they work in a theatre, or on a cruise ship.