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Lights are out for diners during Lions Club event

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Roxane Hanson, of Falmouth, Birgit Shipman, of Spotsylvania, and Debbie McRackan, of Spotsylvania share a laugh after hearing Debbie McRackan describe pouring a glass of wine during a Stafford Lion's Club, Dinner in the Dark, held at Castiglia's located in downtown Fredericksburg. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Roxane Hanson, of Falmouth, Birgit Shipman, of Spotsylvania, and Debbie McRackan, of Spotsylvania share a laugh after hearing Debbie McRackan describe pouring a glass of wine during a Stafford Lion’s Club, Dinner in the Dark, held at Castiglia’s located in downtown Fredericksburg. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Iva Capps kept reaching up to brush nonexistent crumbs off her purple sweater as the waiter placed a salad in front of her.

“The most challenging thing for me is getting the food to my mouth,” Capps said.

Capps, along with 27 other people, was wearing a blindfold in order to experience what it was like to have a visual impairment and perform a simple task, like eating a meal.

The “Dinner in the Dark” fundraising event was for the Stafford County Lions Club and was held Thursday at Castiglia’s in downtown Fredericksburg.

“It gives people a chance to focus on the other senses. It is different when you don’t have [sight], you can focus more on hearing,” said Rose Burrus, club president.

Roxane Hanson, who had two blind parents and teaches at a school for the visually impaired, said she did feel her hearing had been enhanced but that the blindfold impaired her socially.

“I was never really aware how much [being blind] could affect social relationships,” Hanson said. “I can’t tell who is listening to me or if I should jump into a conversation.”

Castiglia's server Shelby Strother  shows blindfolded dinner guest Elena Bonilla of King George, where her wine glass is located during the beginning of  Dinner in the Dark, sponsored by the Lion's Club of Stafford County. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Castiglia’s server Shelby Strother shows blindfolded dinner guest Elena Bonilla of King George, where her wine glass is located during the beginning of Dinner in the Dark, sponsored by the Lion’s Club of Stafford County. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Diners donated $50 to participate in the event and were fed hors d’oeuvres, three mini entrees and a mini dessert.

“It’s good,” Hanson said. “But I have no idea what the first course was.”

For an additional $12, a flight of wine was given to test diners’ ability to drink without being able to see.

Before the diners began their meal Alysah Jeans, who has been blind since birth, offered the room some tips.

“When reaching for a glass, keep your hand close to the table,” Jeans said. “The best way to locate food is to use a fork, but if you can’t figure it out you can use a finger.”

Braille alphabet and number cards were placed on dinner plates during a Dinner in the Dark event held at Castiglia's, located in downtown Fredericksburg Thursday evening. The event was sponsored by the Stafford Lion's Club. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Braille alphabet and number cards were placed on dinner plates during a Dinner in the Dark event held at Castiglia’s, located in downtown Fredericksburg Thursday evening. The event was sponsored by the Stafford Lion’s Club. (RHONDA VANOVER/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

However, the task of eating still proved difficult for some.

“I have my wine close … I wasn’t able to cut my food though,” said Natasha Henderson.

The money from the event will go toward the Lions Club charitable activities, which include providing screenings for children and eyeglasses and eye exams for people.

“The biggest place we can help people is with the children and detecting if they have hearing loss or lazy eye,” said Katie Beverstock, a club member.

For youth visual screenings, the club uses a device called PediaVision. It identifies defects in the eye that could potentially lead to vision problems or blindness if left untreated.

The club has teamed up with day care centers and preschools for the screenings, but they are also going to be setting up tents at big community events this year.

“It’s a push to do more,” Burrus said.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com

 

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