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Lighthouse fundraiser to go on, virtually

May 13, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The pandemic isn't going to keep Lighthouse of SWFL from holding its signature fundraising event of the year. The not-for-profit will simply use a different strategy.

On Saturday, May 16, Lighthouse of SWFL will hold the 10th annual Dining in the Dark fundraiser, with proceeds supporting vision rehabilitation and support programs for people with low vision and blindness.

Dining in the Dark heightens awareness and sensitivity to the challenges faced by individuals of all ages who are experiencing blindness or significant vision impairment.

It won't be at the Collaboratory as was planned. Lighthouse has taken the step to shift the model of the event to accommodate "social distancing" for the safety of staff, volunteers, and guests.

So, you can call this Dining in the Dark from a Distance. Here's how this is going to work.

Guests will purchase an advance ticket online for the event, which is $50. On May 16, guests will arrive at their scheduled time at Millennial Brewing, at 1811 Royal Palm Ave, downtown Fort Myers, where they will pick up a package including a meal prepared by 3g Catering, craft beer brewed by Millennial Brewing, dessert from Bimbo Bakery, and a blindfold - all provided curbside by volunteers practicing safe distancing.

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"We usually do this with a crowd with 100 or so people and do it together to experience the sensory simulation of dining in the dark," said Dotty St. Amand, executive director at Lighthouse. "It allows people to better understand what the challenges are being blind or having poor vision."

The evening's activities will begin with video clips for guests to view while they wait in their vehicle curbside for their scheduled meal pick-up.

Guests will engage in the Dining in the Dark experience when they arrive home and view the instructional video that will guide them through donning the blindfold and using techniques taught by Lighthouse instructors to help them enjoy dining without vision.

"Our instructors teach some of the techniques they teach the blind to navigate the table setting and know where to find their water glass, silverware or whatever without knocking over everything on the table," St. Amand said.

As in the past, there will be an auction, though this one will be online, with items including restaurant gift cards, amazing experiences, and unique gifts will finish off the evening.

The online auction will open at noon Friday and end Monday at midnight. Participants will have the opportunity to check their bids throughout the weekend.

"Not only will our participants be able to bid on items, but also everyone in the community and elsewhere," St. Amand said. "We've shifted the model to raise awareness and funds for the programs. Not only are we working remotely but the demands on our team have doubled because of the pandemic."

St. Amand said that while doing the event remotely, rather than with a crowd will be different, it could also be a blessing in that unlike when the event is done indoors, the remote experience can't sell out.

So far, more than 50 people have already signed up, with many more expected to participate.

"Organizations like ours are very interested to hear how this goes. We're one of the first to shift this to a remote model," St. Amand said. "Everything we're doing now will be incorporated into how we move forward in the future. The lessons we're learning will be carried forward."

Lighthouse of SWFL is a local United Way partner agency serving individuals with blindness and vision impairment in Lee, Glades, and Hendry counties. Its mission is to enable all people living with a visual impairment or blindness to remain independent, active and productive in society.

For ticket information, contact 997-7791, e-mail, or visit online at



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