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Celebrity Philanthropy News 2  3
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Black Tie International:
Foundation Fighting Blindness

Photos by:  Rose Billings/
Honorees, Stephen Tsang, M.D., Ph.D. And Gary Katcher.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Honorees, Stephen Tsang, M.D., Ph.D. And Gary Katcher
Foundation Fighting Blindness

"Banking on a Cure" Gala

The Pierre

April 8, 2014

Master of Ceremony, Shepard Smith, Fox News , Tina De Leon, and Betsey Sauer.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Emcee, Shepard Smith, Fox News
Tina De Leon, and Betsey Sauer
Abe Chehebar CEO AHQ and Barry L. Slotnick Attorney.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Abe Chehebar CEO AHQ and Barry L. Slotnick, Attorney
Steven Alper and Ed Gollob.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Steven Alper and Ed Gollob
 Katie Van Benschoten.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
 Katie Van Benschoten
 Anne Katcher and Mitch Katcher.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
 Anne and Mitch Katcher
Michael Katcher and Desiree Katcher.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Michael and Desiree Katcher
Kaitlin Tynan and Kendall Maximini.  Photo by:  Rose Billings/
Kaitlin Tynan and Kendall Maximini


The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national nonprofit dedicated to sight-saving research,  honored Gary Katcher, Co-Founder and Chairman of GRK Partners LP, and Stephen Tsang, M.D., Ph.D., of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center with its Visionary Award at Banking on a Cure on Tuesday, April 8. The benefit, from 6-9 p.m. at The Pierre, raised critical awareness and research funds toward preventions, treatments and cures for vision-robbing retinal degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Usher syndrome and related conditions.


"We're thrilled to recognize two leaders in the fight against blindness: Gary Katcher, whose personal connection to vision loss fuels his passionate support of sight-saving research, and Dr. Stephen Tsang, whose work in our field is helping to advance treatments for families hoping for an answer," said Bill Schmidt, CEO, Foundation Fighting Blindness. "The funds raised through Banking on a Cure will help drive advancements in promising areas such as gene, stem cell and pharmaceutical therapies, with several clinical trials already underway for patients losing precious vision."


Visionary Award Honoree Gary Katcher is Co-Founder and Chairman of GRK Partners LP, a hedge fund in Greenwich, CT. Mr. Katcher, who was named a Foundation Fighting Blindness National Trustee in 2013, became involved in the fight against blindness to support his brother Mitch Katcher, who hasretinitis pigmentosa, a genetic retinal disease characterized by night blindness and a progressive loss of peripheral vision. "This is a tremendous honor for me," said Gary. "My brother Mitch's fight is my fight, and it is his spirit and tenacity that inspires me. Searching for cures to blindness takes amazing people and important resources and the team at the Foundation Fighting Blindness is leading that charge."


Mitch and his wife Anne Katcher, also National Trustees, were Banking on a Cure
co-chairs. The Katcher family has great hope that Foundation-funded investments in gene therapy, stem cell-based therapies, drug development and other areas will lead to vision-saving and -restoring treatments to help patients in need. For example, dozens of children and young adults have regained significant vision thanks to Foundation Fighting Blindness-supported human studies that have paved the way for other clinical trials for a variety of retinal diseases. And, last February, the Argus II retinal prosthesis, otherwise known as a 'bionic retina," received FDA approval to help people with advanced RP see shapes and improve their mobility. Recently, the first two patients were commercially implanted with the device at one of 12 centers around the country to offer the retinal prosthesis.  


Also receiving the Visionary Award was Foundation-funded researcher Dr. Stephen Tsang, the László Bitó Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and associate professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center and ophthalmologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia. With a focus on inherited retinal degenerations, Dr. Tsang's contributions to retinitis pigmentosa research are recognized internationally, and his advances in gene therapy have led to clinical trials for RP patients. Dr. Tsang's Foundation-funded work aims to better understand retinal conditions and correlate disease genetics with the nature and magnitude of vision loss.


Co-chairing Banking on a Cure with Anne and Mitch Katcher were Foundation Fighting Blindness National Trustees, Iris and Reuven Spiegel, who became involved because their daughter Tali is affected with RP. Mr. Spiegel, President and CEO of Israel Discount Bank, was honored with the Foundation?s Visionary Award in 2010. The event's young professional co-chairs were Bradford Manning, Partner at Macoma Capital Group, and Noah Rabinsky. Emceeing this year's eventwas FOX News anchor, Shepard Smith. "I am honored to emcee this event and lend support to an organization that has done extraordinary work in the line of research for retinal degenerative diseases affecting millions of Americans," said  Smith.


To give people the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse into the lives of the visually impaired, Banking on a Cure will feature a masked dining in the dark option for guests during the dinner entrée. There will also be both live and silent auctions, where guests will have the opportunity to bid on items such as an Argentina Wine Getaway and trips to the Bahamas, Paris and Los Angeles.



About Foundation Fighting Blindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is a national non-profit organization driving the research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases that affect more than 10 million Americans. Since 1971, the Foundation has raised nearly $550 million as the leading non-governmental funder of inherited retinal research. Breakthrough Foundation-funded studies using gene therapy have restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind, paving the way for additional clinical trials to treat a variety of retinal degenerative diseases. With a coveted four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the Foundation also has nearly 50 chapters that provide support, information and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.


joyce brooks, gerard mckeon.  photo by:  rose billings

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