Dining in the Dark Gala draws a crowd

Published 12:48 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

Tiny giggles were heard around the room as blindfolded guests struggled to eat dessert at the fourth-annual Dr. Dennis A. O’Neal Dining in the Dark Dinner Gala for The Blind Center of North Carolina.

The task, designed to simulate blindness, gave guests the chance to learn how difficult it can be to perform everyday tasks with low vision.

“We want to try to give you a feel of what it’s like to do something as simple as eating,” said program director Casey Holland.

More than 100 people piled into the Washington Yacht & Country Club on Friday night to honor the work, history and future of the Blind Center in Beaufort County.

Dr. Tim Klugh, vice president of the Blind Center Board of Directors, introduced Liz Liles, executive director. He outlined the extensive work Liles does in the community — she is the founder of Daughters of Worth, a nonprofit in Pitt County that works to help young women become strong leaders, serves as the secretary for the Kiwanis Club of Down East, is on the steering committee for the Young Professionals of Beaufort County and serves on the Board of Directors for the Beaufort Area Transit System and Pitt Community Resource Center.

“I think we are very, very fortunate to have someone of her caliber working for us here. … Somewhere, she manages to help raise three of her children. I feel a little inadequate,” Klugh laughed.

Liles began by honoring founder of the Blind Center, Dr. Nancy Boyd. Boyd was welcomed with a standing ovation from the audience.

“My favorite part of sharing of our story is sharing the heart of someone who founded this. She is something that I like to call ‘soul fire.” She embarked on a journey that has seriously transformed,” Liles said.

Liles informed the audience of what the nonprofit is — an organization existing to advocate for the blind or low vision, a research lab and a safe haven for low-vision Beaufort County residents.

In a video, many of the clients called the center their “home away from home.”

“If you were to talk to our clients tonight and asked them what they like about the Blind Center, they would say it’s a support system,” Liles said.

At the conclusion of the event, Liles revealed a new project called the “Fight for Sight Campaign.” The campaign will provide a fully functioning research lab, filled with technology that can assist the blind in everyday activities. She encouraged guests to donate funds and think about a way they can make a difference in the community.

“Your money is going directly to those in need. Our goal is to have people say ‘I want to be a part of the change you’re doing, the change that’s only happening in this county,’” Liles said. “Liz Liles cannot do this alone. But we can achieve it together.”