Dining in the Dark enlightens, inspires

Nick Swaine presenting this year’s Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member award to Robert Fox. Photo by Kasherah Reynolds

Complete darkness infused the room as guests were seated to experience dinner on Saturday in a unique and exquisite way.

Lighthouse of the Big Bend hosted its 15th annual sightless yet refined Dining in the Dark fundraising event where 250 guests encountered food, drinks and conversation in total darkness. It took place at the University Center Club.

LBB is a nonprofit agency committed to serving the blind and people with vision impairments. The organization provides anyone with a visual disability a variety of educational and enlightening resources in order to make everyday life less challenging.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team utilized their night-vision goggles to serve guests a three-course meal. Guests were completely unaware of the meals they were about to eat because the menu was a secret.

Almando Moraine, an attendee, was pleased with his experience rating the affair a 10.

“The first time it was very hard for me but this time everything was fine. The thing is you don’t know what you are eating so you must taste it, but it was very fun,” Moraine said.

Kimberly Galbán-Countryman, LBB’s CEO, appreciation for the community coming out and getting a feel of what LBB is all about.

“Not only is this our biggest fundraiser for the year, but the main purpose of it is outrage and awareness. This is an opportunity for people in our community who don’t know what we do to get a tiny glimpse into what it is like to live without sight,” said Galbán-Countryman.

The mission of LBB is to amplify the lives of people who have lost their sight through direct services, community consultation and education. It serves 11 counties throughout the Big Bend area.

Nick Swaine, LBB board chair, presented this year’s Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member Award, an award presented by LBB each year, to Robert Fox.

Paula Bailey, a former Lighthouse client, served as an inspiration to many of those around her notwithstanding being blind and deaf as a result of meningitis. Bailey helped the committee organized the first Dining in the Dark event before her death in 2005.

Fox, the award recipient, remained humble and motivated despite the loss of his sight in an accident.

“Losing one’s vision suddenly can be a shock and a challenge,” said Swaine. “He quickly gained skills and confidence to return to the workforce in a field he is very passionate about, weightlifting.”

Alison Fleischmann, director of development, was more than happy with the turnout of this year’s sold out event. This was Fleischmann’s last time directing the event; she will be vacating her position at LBB and taking on a new opportunity as the director of development for the Tallahassee Community College Foundation.

“I am staying in the development world, but I am moving to another foundation so it’s bittersweet. Working with an organization that provides direct services is really life changing. It’s an experience I would not pass up for anything. The last three years have been amazing, and I am thankful for this team. LBB will always have a special place in my heart,” Fleischmann said.