Victoria Gazzillo, or Tori as we at Ethan & the Bean lovingly call her, is a pediatric Occupational Therapist located in Passaic County, New Jersey. Her previous work experience includes a sensory pediatric outpatient clinic, public school system, home health geriatrics, and community-based practice with adolescents and young adults. She attended The University of Scranton from 2014-2019, where she achieved a Bachelor of Science in Health Science in 2018 and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2019. In 2021, Tori was voted by New Jersey Family as one of New Jersey’s Favorite Kids’ Docs for Occupational Therapists in the northern New Jersey region. Victoria is currently pursuing a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree where she focuses on OT’s role in providing mental health and wellness services to adolescent male wrestling athletes. Victoria’s current professional passions include vocational rehabilitation, adolescent mental health and wellness, and American Sign Language. We are delighted to share that Tori has been accepted to present clinical research related to adolescent mental health, psychoeducational groups to promote community integration for adults with Spinal Cord Injuries, and OT’s role in community based practice and vocational rehabilitation to the American Occupational Therapy Association in 2020 and 2022 and COTEC- ENOTHE in 2020!
How did this exemplary practitioner find her way to this profession? Love of her younger cousin Zachary who was born with a rare genetic disorder called Soto Syndrome led her here. Zachary and Tori have always had a close relationship. From the time he was born until now, he is one of her favorite people in the whole world. When Tori was a junior in high school, she was contemplating careers and Dana, Zachary’s mom, recommended Occupational Therapy. “What are those words you just said?” Tori replied in a playful manner because she never heard of Occupational Therapy before. Dana continued, “The games and activities you and Zachary enjoy doing together are skills that he built with his OT,” and Tori thought that was the coolest thing ever. And so her journey began into this therapeutic space.
Tori has been involved with Ethan and the Bean since its very inception, before it was the coffee shop you know now. In summer 2018 when Tori was a graduate student, she had the opportunity to develop, execute, and facilitate a pilot vocational rehabilitation program through her clinical affiliation facility in West Caldwell, NJ. Since then, she has grown into Ethan and the Bean’s Community Coordinator for Employment Services and Work-Based Training. In this role, she is mindful of and responsible for increasing universal design in training materials, physical space to navigate our storefront environment, and exploring possibilities and opportunities for expansion and growth of work-based learning and volunteer opportunities with both school districts and community members. The greatest barrier she has experienced is that there is such a high demand of people with disabilities who want to gain work-based learning experience, that unfortunately there’s only so much time in the day and slots we can offer due to logistics, staffing, resources, finances, etc. As a result, we work very diligently to expand program offerings in which we have been able to develop an events calendar with various workshop and class offerings to increase opportunities for social participation, education, leisure, and relationship building to expand our community in multiple ways.
Tori was compelled to submit her work on behalf of Ethan & the Bean to the American Occupational Therapy Association. As a profession that promotes independence and participation in daily occupations, such as work, education, social participation, and leisure, the mission of Ethan and the Bean and its dedication to provide employment opportunities to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is so prevalent to the work that Occupational Therapists aim to do. The OT profession is committed to enhancing quality of life through active participation in one’s daily occupations. Introducing the mission of Ethan and the Bean to OT’s national professional association of AOTA is significant to speak to how a work-based training and learning program began with an Occupational Therapy student who developed, executed, and facilitated a pilot vocational rehabilitation program, and is now this same non profit’s Community Coordinator responsible for Employment Services and Work-Based Training and Learning. Tori reflects on how humbling and empowering it is to work with young adults and adolescents in navigating vocational interests, developing work-skills, and facilitating the fostering of peer relationships. Watching that confidence, community, and empowerment grow is immeasurable. To share this with her national professional association was an incredible honor and Tori went ahead to submit a proposal about the work Ethan and the Bean has done and her role as an Occupational Therapist within its mission. She was invited to speak and present about Occupational Therapy’s role with Ethan and the Bean at their national conference!
All can see that Tori is called to do great work through her profession and she intends to do just that to empower individuals to believe in their capabilities, instill confidence to dream, and the belief that they can pursue those dreams knowing myself and others alike stand with them and for them for a more inclusive, caring, supportive, and accepting world to be an active member in. We are beyond thankful for Tori’s contributions, spirit, compassion, and professionalism. The Bean shines brighter because she is a part of our team. Join us in celebrating Tori and this momentous accomplishment.