– Envision announced today that, thanks to the earnest support of numerous donors, it raised $3.1 million to support the construction and development of the Envision Research Institute (ERI) and qualify for a $300,000 challenge grant from the Tulsa, Okla.-based J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation. The ERI is currently under construction at Envision’s headquarters in Wichita. It is scheduled to be completed this spring.
Envision announced a capital campaign last February to convert the entire third floor (12,500 square feet) of its headquarters into a state-of-the-art facility that would put unprecedented emphasis on low-vision rehabilitation and establish the Midwest as a hub of vision-related research.
While many generous contributors rallied in support of the capital campaign, Envision received major donations from:
- Mr. and Mrs. Carl and Gigi Allen. The ERI will be known as the Carl and Gigi Allen Envision Research Institute in recognition of their contribution. Mr. Allen is owner/president/CEO of Heritage Bag Company based in Roanoke, Texas, the largest commercial plastic bag manufacturer in the United States.
- Mrs. Dee Rolph, community philanthropist and former co-owner of Sasnak Management, the Wichita, Kansas-based parent company for Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican restaurants.
- Mr. Greg Lucier, chairman/CEO of San Diego-based medical device company NuVasive, Inc. (NASDAQ: NUVA).
- Dwane and Velma Wallace Foundation.
“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Rolph, Mr. Lucier, the Dwane and Velma Wallace Foundation and all those who have embraced the importance of bringing the Envision Research Institute to life,” said Heather Hogan, Senior Vice President of Foundation & Missions Services at Envision. “Their support will pave the way for important advances in understanding and addressing the challenges of low vision and will help us make great strides toward our mission of improving the quality of life of those who are blind and visually impaired.”
The ERI will take an already impressive body of work and staff into its new facility. Laura Walker, Ph.D., has served as executive director of the ERI since its launch in 2014. The ERI’s first two postdoctoral research fellows, Tony Succar, Ph.D., an Australia native who received his doctorate from the University of Sydney, and Rezaul Karim, Ph.D., a native of Bangladesh who received his doctorate from Kanazawa University in Kanazawa, Japan, were just awarded a second year for their projects that focus on depth perception in patients with age-related macular degeneration and differences in brain development between those who identify objects through sight and those who identify through touch, respectively.
Two additional research fellows will start new projects in 2016. Andrea Urqueta Alfaro, Ph.D., a native of Chile who received her doctorate from the University of California, Berkley, will study the difference in development between typically sighted and blind and visually impaired children. Arun Kumar Krishnan, Ph.D., a native of India who received his doctorate at the University of Houston, will explore applications to improve reading performance for patients with macular lesions.
More than just having a physical space in which to work, researchers at the ERI will benefit from Envision’s global network of contacts in the vision care community and will gain access to an abundant pool of potential research subjects. Envision has supported thousands of individuals who are blind and visually impaired through employment in meaningful positions, rehabilitative services, art and continuing education classes, support groups and the Envision Child Development Center. The ability to observe day-to-day activities at Envision and invite participants to take part in studies will add a valuable layer of resources to the researchers’ work.
“The ERI will bring many valuable assets together in one space to support more robust studies,” said Dr. Walker. “Between the facilities, the proximity to a sizeable population of those representing the vision challenges being studied and Envision’s affiliations with many institutions also focused on vision issues, the postdoctoral fellows who come here will have an unprecedented opportunity to explore and hopefully, advance new strategies.”
Donations in support of the Envision Research Institute are still being accepted. To contribute, please visit research.envisionus.com/donate