Gala helps raise money to fight blindness causing diseases 

San Francisco resident Janni Lehrer-Stein is hosting the Foundation Fighting Blindness third annual Dining in the Dark gala May 11. Lehrer-Stein was diagnosed more than 20 years ago with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that leads to progressive vision loss. The gala raises money for research and clinical trials for blindness causing diseases.

What happens during the dinner? For a few brief moments, the lights are gradually dimmed. We do a quick trial run and then the lights go out for the remainder of the dinner. The dinner is then served by staff who are either blind or severely visually impaired. 

What’s it like? It’s a very intense experience. We have reactions that are fairly positive. I expected that I wouldn’t really be affected by the experience because I am already impaired, but I came away with a whole new outlook.

How do you guide people through the experience? I say, just close your eyes and go. People have to use mental energy to figure out how far away is the plate, where is the wine glass. You really have to concentrate.

How did you react to the news that you had retinitis pigmentosa? I was stunned. I didn’t think I had any problems with my eyes. It’s easy to ignore the signs because they’re so subtle. The good news is that I’ve adapted well.

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Brent Begin

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