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Dinner in the Dark: A Fund & Awareness-Raiser for LCA

Five years ago, Sofia Sees Hope co-founder Laura Manfre had just founded a nonprofit, and needed a way to raise awareness. Manfre launched Sofia Sees Hope after her daughter, Sofia, was diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited retinal disease that causes blindness.

Manfre, who lives in Ledyard, wanted her 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to provide information and support to individuals and families affected by LCA. The organization also raises funds to provide free access to patients for genetic testing, and for research to support diagnosis, treatments and cure.

She thought up the idea of staging a “Dinner in the Dark” that would be part fundraiser and part awareness-raiser. Guests dine on a multi-course gourmet meal prepared by the chef at the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa, but they do it blindfolded. It’s akin to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

“We wanted to be able to raise money and we felt it was also important to really have people experience what it’s like to live with vision loss,” Manfre said. “When you have LCA, you can have some sight at birth, but typically by late teens or early 20s you have complete vision loss. Understanding the cause they are supporting makes Dinner in the Dark not only a fun night, but also meaningful.”

The idea caught on, and now in its fifth year, Dinner in the Dark typically sells out well before the event. This year it is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Mystic Marriott. Tickets are on sale here.

In addition to the blindfolded dining, the event includes a cocktail hour, one of the area’s best live auctions, and dancing to The Cartells. And for the second year, custom jeweler Simply Majestic of Mystic is sponsoring an additional fundraiser — 150 Majestic Boxes! One of the boxes contains a gorgeous sterling silver “hope” pendant. The others contain an exquisite sterling silver love knot pendant necklace. The lucky recipient of the hope charm will receive a diamond pendant and ring from Simply Majestic’s Designer Collection.

For more information about Sofia Sees Hope, visit the website.

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