March 13, 2014

March Hoops to Beat Blindness event to support research on diagnosing and treating retinal dystrophies

Brendan as a toddler
Brendan Hepner

ANN ARBOR, MI – Retinal dystrophies are a group of inherited or genetic conditions that affect the retina, the light-sensitive cells in the back of the eye. Although these conditions are rare, they do cause gradual and irreversible vision loss to people who are affected by them. To help these people, funds from this year’s March Hoops to Beat Blindness (MHBB) event will support Kellogg retina specialist Thiran Jayasundera, M.D., who has developed an automated diagnostic tool to identify retinal dystrophies.

On March 20 and 21, Mr. Hepner will collect “pledges” while he watches every game of the first round of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament at Pizza House (618 Church Street) in Ann Arbor. The restaurant also will donate a portion of its dining receipts to the fundraiser during the two-day event. Since its inception in 2007, MHBB has raised more than $42,000 to improve vision care at Kellogg.

The goal of Dr. Jayasundera’s research is to discover new diagnostic tests and predictive measures that will give patients correct diagnoses and accurate predictions of medical outcomes; help guide patients’ treatment options; and determine which patients will be good candidates for upcoming clinical trials. In addition to his research, Dr. Jayasundera recently performed the first surgery in the United States to implant an artificial retina, or “bionic eye,” since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 2013. The device, called the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System, is implanted in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative and blinding eye disease.

Mr. Hepner has been passionate about supporting Kellogg since his son, Brendan, was treated for retinoblastoma—a cancer of the eye—when he was only 9 months old. Brendan is now a healthy 11-year-old who returns to Kellogg for annual checkups and his father created MHBB to thank the Kellogg doctors who treated his son.

You can donate to MHBB 2014 in the following ways:

  1. Visit and complete the online donation form.
  2. Visit Pizza House and request that your dining receipt go toward the fundraiser. Over the two-day event, Pizza House will contribute 15 percent of all dining receipts to the fundraiser.


Aimee S. Bergquist, 734.763.4660,


Last Modified: Thursday, 13-Mar-2014 10:37:08 EDT