NEW YORK (June 2, 2014)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has announced the recipients of its prestigious Helen Keller Achievement Awards that will be held in New York City on June 17th. The awards will be presented to Christine Ha, Winner of U.S. MasterChef Season 3, AT&T, and Genentech for their extraordinary efforts to improve quality of life for people with vision loss.
Past awardees include companies such as IBM, The New York Times, Bank of America, and Time Warner, and individuals such as Stevie Wonder, Patty Duke and Ray Charles. The black-tie gala will be held at the New York Marriott Downtown, marking the 18th edition of the organization's fundraising gala.
Alex Trebek, Host of Jeopardy!, will serve as Master of Ceremonies, and Honorary Chairs will be J. W. Marriott, Jr. , Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, Marriott International, and José Feliciano, Grammy-Winning Musical Artist.
"Helen Keller fought tirelessly to make the world more inclusive and to change public perceptions about the capabilities of those of us with vision loss," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB's President and CEO. "The 2014 award winners have helped to continue Keller's important legacy by expanding possibilities for millions of people around the world. We are thrilled to recognize their achievements."
About the 2014 Helen Keller Achievement Award recipients:
Christine Ha won the hearts of American TV viewers as the Season 3 champion of Gordon Ramsay's popular U.S. cooking competition, MasterChef on FOX, where she became the first ever blind winner of a major cooking show. Through her triumphs—winning a series of individual and group challenges to beat out 18 other contestants and earn the title of Master Chef—she demonstrated to millions of viewers that people with vision loss are as talented and capable as their sighted peers. Ha, who became blind in 2007 due to an autoimmune disease, says that cooking as a person who is visually impaired is "…about being organized, careful and using my other senses." She continues to advocate for people with vision loss in public appearances and through her writings, on her blog, The Blind Cook, and in her best-selling cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food, 2013.
AT&T, the Dallas-based telecommunications giant, is being honored for an exceptional track record of providing accessible products and services that improve the lives of people with vision loss—specifically, large print and braille billing statements, mobile phone applications and readers, and an exemplary national Help Center for customers with disabilities. AT&T has been listed among top companies for people with disabilities by specialized publications such as CAREERS & the disabled and Diversity, Inc. Mark Balsano, Executive Director, Compliance, will be accepting the Helen Keller Achievement Award on behalf of AT&T.
Genentech, the California-based biotechnology company that developed Lucentis—hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of "wet" macular degeneration—is being honored for its commitment to making healthcare information accessible. Genentech has generously supported AFB's efforts to improve the accessibility of healthcare websites, ensuring that people with vision loss can stay informed, and monitor and manage their medical treatment plans independently. Dr. Roman G. Rubio, Senior Group Medical Director and Head of Ophthalmology, will accept the award on behalf of Genentech.
The Helen Keller Achievement Awards were established by AFB in 1994 to acknowledge Helen Keller's extraordinary contributions and promote the notable achievements of individuals and organizations that have improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. The gala will feature a cocktail reception, online and silent auctions, dinner and awards presentation, dancing, and live music by Philadelphia-based Ward Marston and his Orchestra. All proceeds from the event will support AFB's wide array of programs and services that expand possibilities for people with vision loss.
The Benefit Committee includes co-chairs Donald A. Goldsmith, Senior Partner, Private Wealth Services, Holland & Knight; Matthew Margo, Senior Vice President, Program Practices, CBS Television; Hon. David A. Paterson, Former Governor, New York State; Glen Weiss, Executive Vice President, Director of Leasing, Vornado Realty Trust; and members Elcio Barcelos*, VP, HR Print & Personal Systems, Americas, Hewlett-Packard; Susan Diegelman, Director, Public Affairs, AT&T; Susan Weidle*, Retired Executive Director, Johnson & Johnson, Inc.; and Thomas Wlodkowski*, Vice President, Accessibility, Comcast.
Sponsors and in-kind supporters of the 2014 Helen Keller Achievement Awards include: Genentech, Cushman & Wakefield, Hewlett-Packard, Amy P. Goldman Foundation, CBS Television, CBRE, JPMorgan Chase, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Newmark & Co. , UPS, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Alex Trebek, Vornado Realty Trust, Colliers University Advocate, Cassidy Turley, CTIA-The Wireless Association, L'Occitane en Provence, Google, Jones Lang LaSalle, AT&T, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bolton, José Feliciano, Christine Ha, Bridge Multimedia, Flipper USB, and Quinn Fable Advertising.
For tickets or more information, visit www.afb.org/hkaa.
*AFB Board of Trustees
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.