Foundation Fighting Blindness Dining in the Dark Opens Guests' Eyes to Challenges of the Visually Impaired, Benefits Sight-Saving Research

Foundation Fighting Blindness Dining in the Dark Opens Guests’ Eyes to Challenges of the Visually Impaired, Benefits Sight-Saving Research

NASCAR Hall of Famer and NASCAR on FOX Analyst, Darrell Waltrip, and President & General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Marcus Smith, To Receive Visionary Awards

Charlotte, NC (August 12, 2013) — The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national nonprofit focused on finding preventions, treatments and cures for retinal diseases, will present its Visionary Award to Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR Hall of Famer and NASCAR on FOX Analyst, and Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, at its 3rd Annual Charlotte Dining in the Dark. The unique fundraiser, taking place on Wednesday, October 9, at the Great Wolf Lodge Conference Center, will raise critical awareness about the impact of sight loss by giving guests a unique, first-hand glimpse into the lives of the visually impaired. It will also benefit the Foundation’s research into gene, cell and pharmaceutical-based therapies for blinding retinal diseases including macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa that affect more than 10 million Americans, young and old.

Dining in the Dark is a distinctive sensory awareness experience in which guests participate in an unforgettable dining adventure, in complete darkness. To get first-hand insight into the challenges of the blind community, diners will wear special light-blocking masks and eat their entrée using only their heightened senses of smell, sound, taste and touch. Created in Germany, Dining in the Dark is a one-of-a kind concept that has been enjoyed by many people across Europe before moving to America in 2005.

“Reactions to Dining in the Dark are truly powerful because people often don’t realize the daily obstacles of living with low to no vision,” said Marilyn Green, Dining in the Dark chair and Foundation board member. “We are thrilled to recognize the professional accomplishments and community leadership of two key members of the NASCAR community, as we support promising research to save and restore sight.” Green, of Greensboro, North Carolina, has a storied NASCAR history as the original, iconic Miss Winston, who would greet race winners in Victory Lane. Visually impaired due to the genetic disease retinitis pigmentosa, Green, along with her husband Dean—the evening’s Innovator Sponsors—have passionately supported the Foundation for more than three decades. And, Green has not allowed sight loss to impede her success in business, as founder and owner of Marilyn’s Model and Talent Management.

The Foundation’s Visionary Award will be presented to Darrell Waltrip, whose successful racing career spanned 29 years and included winning 3 NASCAR Championships, the Daytona 500 and the Winston 500. He was named NASCAR’s “Most Popular Driver” in 1989 and 1990, as well as “American Driver of the Year” three times. After retiring from NASCAR, Waltrip became the sport’s lead analyst for FOX Sports and has been voted “Most Popular Announcer” on He also wrote the “The New York Times best-selling autobiography, “DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles,” appeared as himself in the film “Talladega Nights,” and lent his voice for the movie “CARS.” In 2012, Darrell was inducted in to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Also being recognized is Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Considered NASCAR’s home track for more than 50 years, Charlotte Motor Speedway annually hosts prestigious NASCAR events such as the Coca‐Cola 600, Sprint All-Star Race and Bank of America 500, as well as nationally recognized AutoFairs, NHRA drag racing and World of Outlaws races. Smith is also president and chief operating officer of the speedway’s parent company, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI), which owns and operates eight speedways across the country, hosting 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. And, he serves as vice chairman of Speedway Children’s Charities, a national fundraising organization that provides for children in need by supporting hundreds of local nonprofit agencies on an annual basis.


Charlotte Dining in the Dark, benefiting the Foundation Fighting Blindness


The Great Wolf Lodge Conference Center
10175 Weddington Rd. NW 
Concord, NC 28027


Wednesday, October 9, 2013
6 p.m. Reception
7-9 p.m. Awards Program & Dining in the Dark

Individual tickets are $350 each and sponsor packages begin at $2,500. For ticket and sponsorship information, please contact Lesley Ireland at (866) 782-7330 or To RSVP as a member of the media or schedule an interview with an event spokesperson, please contact Jessica Blasco at (410) 423-0619 or

Since 2011, the Charlotte Dining in the Dark has raised over $450K for sight-saving research and past honorees include Richard Petty, Richard Childress, O. Bruton Smith and Mike Helton. To download high-resolution photos from last year’s event, click here.

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.

Original Date: 
Monday, August 12, 2013