“Dining in the Dark” is an annual event that UIWRSO’s student chapter of SVOSH (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) hosts in order to fundraise for the World Sight Day Challenge. This is a global campaign run by Optometry Giving Sight, a charity who hopes to help the more than 600 million people worldwide who are blind or vision impaired because they do not have access to an eye exam or glasses. 100 percent of the proceeds that came from this event went directly to this campaign, which is why it is such an important event for UIWRSO.
The room was beautifully decorated, and at each table there was a little blindfold in front of each plate, which we used to cover our eyes to simulate eating as a visually impaired or blind person. Everyone found their seats and volunteers to the event served drinks and bread. Nicole Fee, president of the RSO SVOSH chapter, gave a presentation about what World Sight Day is and how Dining in the Dark helps to benefit Optometry Giving Sight.
There were also two guest speakers, Ricky Ruzicka, and Jose Martinez from Lighthouse for the Blind. Both of these speakers talked about their experience with their visual impairment. Ricky has Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, which he was not diagnosed with until his early twenties, and Jose has a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa, something he was born with. Both of these speakers gave us great insight to what it is like to have a visual impairment, whether you are born with it or develop it later in life. They gave us great information about what kind of devices and services are available to people with blindness. They also answered several questions about their daily lives, such as what kind of programs are available for them in school or how they learned how to ride the bus.
Next, the eating began! The food was catered by Carraba’s Italian Grill. Eating pasta and salad might be easy when you have sight, but when that is taken away, it is definitely a challenge! Everyone was instructed to put on their blindfolds and eat their meal as they normally would. The lights were also turned off at this point. I definitely had to rely on my other senses, especially touch, to find what I was looking for. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be! After taking off the blindfold, I could see a lot of food around my plate; I guess I am not the best at this!
At the same time, a silent auction was happening close-by, which was also used to raise money for Optometry Giving Sight. Some of the items up for auction (which were generously donated) included a LASIK procedure provided by Dr. Parkhurst and Nuvision, a new iPad Air, designer sunglasses, and vouchers for our own UIWRSO optical. SVOSH also raised money by having a raffle, giving away items such as a Keurig and gift cards.
This was a fantastic event to attend. Not only did SVOSH raise a huge amount of money for this wonderful charity, I also got to see students, faculty, and friends coming together to participate and have fun in something they believe in, helping others through the gift of sight.