Family of Warren pizza shop owner hospitalized with COVID launches ‘kindness campaign’

East Bay

WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — Steve Balasco, owner of Balasco Pizzeria, is known for giving back throughout the holiday season.

But this year, the 61-year-old is fighting for his life.

Henry Conley, Balasco’s brother-in-law, tells 12 News he’s currently on a ventilator in the ICU after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago.

“At this point, we’re just really hoping and praying for the best each day,” Conley said, adding that Balasco has since developed COVID pneumonia. “You just don’t think it will be your family member.”

Conley said Balasco, who’s owned the pizza shop for more than 30 years, and his wife are always looking for ways to give back to the community.

“He’s always had a huge heart and has always tried to do things for others and never really looking for anything in return, just that people pay it forward,” Conley explained.

That’s why Conley said their family is asking everyone to do just that in honor of Balasco.

The movement, which initially started on social media, has since morphed into the Balasco Strong Campaign, where people are asked to do something nice for another person.

Afterwards, the person hands a card to the recipient that reads, “#BalascoStrong, spread kindness and love. You’ve received an act of kindness, pay it forward and pass this card along.”

Balasco’s family hopes this movement will continue to inspire others to be kind to one another in his absence.

“We understand how many other people are struggling, and if we can see that people try to make life a little easier for each other, then our job is done,” Conley said.

A GoFundMe page has also been created to help curb the cost of Balasco’s medical expenses. So far, it’s raised more than $18,000.

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