Foundation Fighting Blindness Presents Builders Of Sight Award To Board Members Moira Shea And George Villere

Friday, July 12, 2013

Foundation Fighting Blindness Presents Builders Of Sight Award To Board Members Moira Shea And George Villere

Affected By Vision-Robbing Diseases, Two Leaders Honored at VISIONS 2013 National Conference

Moira M. Shea accepts the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Builders of Sight Award at VISIONS 2013. Left to right: Foundation Fighting Blindness President Edward Gollob, Foundation Fighting Blindness Board Director Moira M. Shea, Foundation Fighting Blindness Chairman and Co-Founder Gordon Gund, Foundation Fighting Blindness Vice Chairman Jerry Shaw, with Moira’s guide dog, Finnegan. Photo by Craig Huey
Moira M. Shea accepts the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Builders of Sight Award at VISIONS 2013. Left to right: Foundation Fighting Blindness President Edward Gollob, Foundation Fighting Blindness Board Director Moira M. Shea, Foundation Fighting Blindness Chairman and Co-Founder Gordon Gund, Foundation Fighting Blindness Vice Chairman Jerry Shaw, with Moira’s guide dog, Finnegan.  Photo by Craig Huey

Foundation Fighting Blindness Board Director George Villere Photo by Thomas S. Ryan
George Villere (Photo by Thomas S. Ryan)

Columbia, MD (July 12, 2013) – The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding treatments and cures for vision-robbing retinal diseases, recognizes Washington, D.C., resident Moira M. Shea and New Orleans, Louisiana, resident George Villere with its Builders of Sight Award. The honor acknowledges their extraordinary commitment and dedication to accelerating the advancement of sight-saving treatments into clinical trials and out to the millions of people around the world affected by retinal degenerative diseases. The awards were announced in front of more than 600 people at the Foundation’s VISIONS 2013 national conference Awards Dinner on Saturday, June 29, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

Involved with the fight against blindness since 1980, board director and national trustee Moira M. Shea chaired the D.C. chapte for several years, founded the D.C. Blind Wine event in 2006, has supported the Northern Virginia VisionWalk, and works to increase funds for vision research, among other events. She recently retired from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she was a senior policy analyst in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Shea is a passionate advocate for people with retinal diseases, especially those with Usher syndrome, the condition that robs both her hearing and vision. When Shea worked for a U.S. Senator in 1997, she made history with her guide dog, Beau, setting into motion a rules change to permit service dogs on the Senate floor.

The Foundation’s Builders of Sight Award was also given to board director and national trustee George Villere. Generously contributing to the foundation’s efforts since 1984 and serving on the board of directors for many years, he has provided inspiring leadership to the organization as well as support for the Nashville VisionWalk. Villere is affected by retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic retinal disease that progressively steals sight for which there is no cure. Despite the challenges of vision loss, he’s a partner at St. Denis J. Villere & Co., an investment management firm in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“Without inspiring board leaders like Moira Shea and George Villere, the Foundation Fighting Blindness would not be in the position we are today—actually restoring vision in human clinical trials,” says Bill Schmidt, CEO, Foundation Fighting Blindness. “We are truly grateful for their ongoing drive to make a difference for the more than 10 million Americans living with retinal diseases.

"My life has been unimaginably enriched by being a part of a team of individuals passionately united toward a common goal of enhancing the lives of those challenged by retinal degeneration," said Villere.

Ms. Shea noted that a recent study estimated the economic cost of vision loss and eye disorders to be $139 billion annually, among the costliest health conditions currently facing the United States.  Shea stated “this figure does not include the emotional toll of diseases like Usher syndrome, the leading cause of deaf blindness in the United States.  This is one of the many reasons why I so strongly support the vital work of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.”

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 more than $500 million as the leading non-governmental funder of 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.