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The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national nonprofit dedicated to finding treatments and cures for vision-robbing retinal diseases, has recognized Reston resident Davida Luehrs with its Volunteer of the Year Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

The honor acknowledges Luehrs’ service to support the group’s mission to save and restore sight lost to retinal diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Stargardt disease and Usher syndrome. The award was presented at the foundation’s VISIONS 2013 national conference Awards Dinner in Baltimore on June 29.

Luehrs, who is affected with retinitis pigmentosa, leads the foundation’s Northern Virginia Chapter as president. Also a national trustee, she was instrumental in bringing VisionWalk to Northern Virginia. This spring, the fundraiser passed the $1 million mark in its eighth year.

She’s twice chaired the Northern Virginia Dining in the Dark, an event that gives guests a first-hand glimpse into the lives of the visually impaired. Despite the challenges associated with sight loss, Luehrs has successfully spearheaded efforts that have led to nearly $2 million raised to support retinal disease research.

“Without inspiring community leaders like Davida Luehrs, the Foundation Fighting Blindness would not be in the position we are today – actually restoring vision in human clinical trials,” said Bill Schmidt, the foundation’s CEO. “We are truly grateful for her ongoing drive to make a difference for the more than 10 million Americans living with retinal diseases.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive such a special award,” Luehrs said. “I believe it is important for us all to be engaged and give back to our community, and it is my hope that my efforts in this area will make a difference.”

The four-day conference allowed hundreds of visually impaired attendees and their loved ones to listen to world-class scientists talk about the latest developments in retinal research, improve skills for coping with low vision and meet others living with similar diseases.

Performing arts high school seeks applicants

In September, the first private performing arts high school in the Washington area will open its doors at The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

The Metropolitan School of the Arts, founded by Melissa Dobbs, will offer a full-day academic and performing arts curriculum to high school students. The school is now accepting applications for the fall, looking to enroll 20 students in its first year. Dobbs is also founder and executive director of Metro Fine Arts Center, which has provided dance, music and theater instruction to more than 10,000 students of all ages since opening in 2001. Classes are offered at locations in Alexandria and Old Town Alexandria.

“Metropolitan School of the Arts will provide opportunities for lots of children to learn and perform,” said John Mason, Workhouse Arts Center president and CEO. “It is a tremendous plus for everyone: the Workhouse, MSA, the dance students and their families as well as the audiences that will be able to see them perform. The MSA students will bring great life and energy to the Workhouse campus.”

Dobbs trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., George Mason University and the Royal Academy of Dance in London.

To apply, visit

McLean volunteer is ‘Friend in Deed’

The Friends of the McLean Community Center at its June meeting named McLean resident Gay Rogers the recipient of its 2013 “Friend in Deed” award.

Rogers is the 20th person to receive this recognition “with gratitude for outstanding leadership and support of the McLean Community Center.” A plaque with her name will be added to the “Friend in Deed” wall in the center’s main lobby.

Rogers, who has lived in McLean’s Langley Forest area for 33 years, has volunteered as a member of the board of the Friends organization for more than four years.

She is retired from her job at the Langley High School library, where for many years she tutored high school math. A longtime member of the Langley Swim Club, she is now the club administrator.

Fairfax fellow finishes year at Jill’s House

Jenna Godwin of Fairfax recently completed a one-year fellowship at the Vienna-based nonprofit Jill’s House, which provides respite, renewal and peace of mind to families of children with intellectual disabilities.

The innovative 42,000-square-foot, 45-bed respite resort accepts children ages 6 to 17 with special needs, and their siblings, for overnight stays.

The 2013 fellows class, of which Godwin was a part, comprised six recent graduates from across the country. They committed to a year of service in full-time paid positions and worked as childcare specialists, performing activities geared toward directly serving children in the Jill’s House facility and at partner day camps around the country.

“Jenna’s incredible energy and heart to serve children with special needs is something our entire staff learned from this year,” said Christine Walls, Jill’s House director of distributed programs. “She was a light to all our staff and the children we serve, and we are excited to see her change the lives of other children as she works in the classroom.”

Godwin will continue her work as a teacher at Reston Montessori School.

“This past year has completely changed my view on life,” she said. “The children that we serve at Jill’s House have taught me how to persevere through the hard times and how to find joy in all situations. I have learned a lot about myself, and I have been stretched and molded in so many ways throughout the Jill’s House Fellows program.”

Governor names 8 to state positions

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed these local residents to state boards and commissions.

• Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority: Bruce Gates of Alexandria, senior vice president, external affairs for Altria Client Services Inc.

• Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority: Terry Hsiao of McLean, founding chief executive officer of Hook Mobile.

• Board of the Virginia College Building Authority: Sylvia Le Torrente of Chantilly, founder of API.

• Board for the Virginia College Savings Plan: William Jasien of Clifton, president and CEO of Stonehedge Global Partners.

• Christopher Newport University Board of Visitors: Bruce Jennings of Fairfax, owner of Fairfax City Self Storage.

• Longwood University Board of Visitors: Stephen Mobley of McLean, program manager for Thompson Reuters.

• Information Technology Advisory Council: Joy Hughes of Oak Hill, special advisor to the president and professor of Engineering at George Mason University.

• Virginia Workforce Council: Danny Vargas of Herndon, president of VARCom Solutions; Vargas was appointed chair.