Foundation Fighting Blindness Renames its Builder of Sight Award to Honor Co-Founders Beverly and Bernard Berman
Columbia, Maryland – The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), an international non-profit funding research focused on preventing, treating and curing vision-robbing retinal diseases, announced today that it has renamed its Builder of Sight Award to the Beverly and Bernard Berman Builder of Sight Award in honor of the Berman’s early leadership in helping to establish the foundation.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness is headquartered in Columbia. Before his death, Bernard Berman was a long-time Baltimore resident. Beverly Berman continues to reside in the area.
"My family and I are grateful that the FFB has renamed the Builder of Sight Award to honor me and to remember my late husband, Ben,” said Beverly Berman. “As co-founders and long-time volunteers we are happy to see this award presented to Mr. Edward Russnow - a fellow committed volunteer in his own right."
The FFB Builder of Sight Award is given annually to honor those who have made exceptional commitments to the Foundation’s mission and provided leadership for its continued work. Beverly and Bernard Berman were recipients of the award in 1985.
“The Builder of Sight Award is the Foundation’s highest recognition of extraordinarily dedicated volunteerism of more than 10 years,” said FFB Chairman Gordon Gund. “Ben’s passionate determination to save his daughters’ sight was a compelling inspiration for the growth and development of the Foundation.”
In 1971, the Bermans, along with Gordon and Llura Gund, were pivotal, early leaders in the establishment of the Foundation. Both families are affected by vision-loss due to retinal disease. The Berman’s two daughters, Joanne and Mindy, were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at an early age. RP is a hereditary disease that causes progressive vision loss. Gordon Gund was also affected with RP and lost his sight in 1970 at age 31.
When the Bermans and Gunds teamed with other affected families to create a foundation, the task before them was not an easy one. At that time, very little was known about the inner workings of the retina and little research was being done in the area of retinal disease. The first task in front of the Foundation (then called the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation) was to raise enough money to establish a retinal research laboratory which would in turn attract researchers and research funding.
By 1974, the Foundation had raised more than $600,000 and the first lab focused on the study of inherited retinal disease, the Berman-Gund Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, was created. Today, that facility is still doing groundbreaking research, and is now joined by dozens of additional labs and hundreds of researchers working in the area – many supported by FFB funding.
“Today, great strides have been made toward preventing and treating vision loss caused by retinal disease due in large part to the work of the FFB. Thanks to emerging pharmaceutical treatments, gene therapies, stem-cell therapy and even a replacement or “bionic” retina there is real hope that vision loss and blindness due to retinal disease will one day be preventable,” said Bill Schmidt, the Foundation’s CEO.
The 2016 Beverly and Bernard Berman Builder of Sight Award will be given to Edward Russnow at the Foundation’s annual VISIONS Conference to be held in Baltimore, June 30 – July 3. Russnow is a long-time member of the FFB Board of Directors and co-chairs its Development Committee.
Contact: Rhea Farberman