The Honorable Catherine Anderson & Retina Center of Minnesota's Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, To Receive Foundation Fighting Blindness Visionary Awards

The Honorable Catherine Anderson & Retina Center of Minnesota’s Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, To Receive Visionary Awards

Minneapolis, MN (February 11, 2013) — The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national nonprofit focused on sight-saving research, will present its Visionary Award to the Honorable Catherine L. Anderson, retired Hennepin County District Court Judge, and Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, Managing Partner and Director of Clinical Research with Retina Center of Minnesota, at the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Dining in the Dark. The event, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29, at the Hilton Minneapolis, will raise 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 preventions, treatments and cures for blinding retinal degenerative 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,” says Dinner Co-Chair Mark Valenziano, of Minneapolis, who runs a successful business despite blindness due to Stargardt disease. “We are thrilled to recognize the professional accomplishments and community leadership of Judge Anderson and Dr. Bhavsar, both of whom are passionate about the fight against blindness, as we come together to fuel research in promising areas like gene, stem cell-based and pharmaceutical therapies that stand to help people like me losing their vision to retinal disease.”

Co-chairing the dinner with Valenziano is Julie Anderson, of Minneapolis, who is also visually impaired from retinitis pigmentosa, and has lent herself to a clinical trial to help advance the science by having a tiny device implanted in her retina that releases a vision-saving protein. Serving as Master of Ceremonies will be WCCO-TV (CBS 4) News Anchor Frank Vascellaro.

The Visionary Award will be presented to the Honorable Catherine Anderson, who despite Stargardt disease, served Hennepin County with distinction for 15 years in its Fourth Judicial District Court, and has held several leadership positions during her impressive legal career, including President of the Minnesota District Judges Association and Chair of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section. She also volunteers for the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ophthalmology Development Advisory Committee, helping to strengthen the department’s efforts to preserve and restore sight through expert clinical care, research and education.

Also receiving the award is Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, a renowned retina and vitreous surgeon and adjunct assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota, with research interests in macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other areas. He’s leading clinical trials for treatments of the retinal disease macular degeneration and other eye conditions that impact vision. In addition to various industry accolades, Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, is a past President of the Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology and past Chair of the Phillips Eye Institute’s Department of Ophthalmology. And, his support of the Foundation’s Twin Cities VisionWalk over the past six years has helped fuel this successful fundraising event.



Twin Cities Dining in the Dark, Benefiting the Foundation Fighting Blindness


Wednesday, May 29, 2013
6 p.m. Reception
7-9 p.m. Awards Program and Dining in the Dark


Hilton Minneapolis
1001 Marquette Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Individual tickets are available for $250 each and sponsorship packages begin at $2,500. For ticket and sponsorship information, contact Events Manager Kristi Snuttjer at or (847) 680-0100. Contributions may also be sent to Attn: “Kristi – Twin Cities Dining in the Dark,” 1580 S. Milwaukee Avenue, Suite 606, Libertyville, IL 60048, if someone cannot attend but wishes to support the important research funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. To RSVP as a member of the media or to coordinate an interview with an event spokesperson, contact Allie Gebhardt at (410) 423-0643 or

Photos from the inaugural Twin Cities Dining in the Dark in 2012:

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 over $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, and proving a cure is in sight. With a network of nearly 50 chapters, the Foundation also provides support, information and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.

Original Date: 
Monday, February 11, 2013