Dining in the Dark exceeds fundraising goal

Foundation Fighting Blindness brought in $425,000 for vision research at the fifth annual Dining in the Dark dinner.

Event Coordinator Donna Cohen was very excited that they surpassed their goal of $400,000.

“We raised about the same amount as last year, which was great,” she said.

About 300 people went to the Fairmont in Newport Beach, where they feasted in the dark for 30 minutes to know what it’s like to be blind. Visually impaired waiters navigated the dinner using a system of ropes.

The event also included the foundation’s Visionary Awards.

J. Andy Corley, co-founder of Eyeonic and surgical strategy advisor at Bausch + Lomb, and Dr. Baruch D. Kupperman, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering and chief of retina service at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the UC Irvine, were honored for their contribution to sight-saving solutions in the corporate, medical and academic fields.

“We’re honored to recognize two industry leaders for their significant contributions to the vision community and for their strong support of the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ effort to secure brighter futures for the more than 10 million Americans affected with sight-stealing retinal diseases,” foundation Chief Executive Bill Schmidt said in a statement.

Corley is known for the creation of the crystalens, an intraocular lens that is used in cataract replacement surgery. He is also known for being one of the first to introduce LASIK surgery.

Kupperman, a resident of Laguna Beach, studies retinal diseases and possible treatments, as well as conducts clinical trials regarding degenerative conditions.

Speakers affected by retinal diseases also spoke. Jennifer Stevens, the mother of a child born with congenital amaurosis, which causes blindness, spoke to the crowd about how they’ve handled the condition and are now advocating for research. One of the visually impaired servers, Jane Neglia, spoke about her retinitis pigmentosa, which has pushed her to help others who are impaired.

The funds raised will go directly to researchers looking to find treatments for those affected by retinal degenerative diseases.

Dining in the Dark started in 2007 in Orange County. Since its inception, the event has raised $2 million.

For more information about Foundation Fighting Blindness, visit