Finger foods were not on the menu Wednesday night for Glendale High School's Dinner in the Dark fundraiser in support of The Foundation Fighting Blindness.
That would have been too easy.
On the Dinner in the Dark menu, catered by Corey's Restaurant, was a quarter-chicken (with bones), mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and salad. After bringing the food to their tables, participants had the option of wearing a blindfold or special cardboard 'glasses' that simulate late-stage retinitis pigmentosa, a disease of the eye which causes tunnel vision.
"I tried both," said Zoey Papadakos.
"Both," nodded Camryn MacIntyre. "The blindfold was harder."
"I tried to eat my chicken with a bone in it... I was picking at it," said Papadakos. "It was really hard. Especially eating the chicken."
Locating food on the plate – specific food – was a challenge. And depending on the food type, lettuce for example, choice of cutlery made a difference. If you could find your cutlery.
"Because you can't see," said MacIntyre, noting she tried using her fork, knife and spoon.
"I tried to use my knife, and I tried to use my fork but I couldn't find it," said Papadakos.
"I used everything – even my fingers," said MacIntyre.
Ben Peevers also tried his utensils, but quickly switched to fingers only.
"These are utensils too," said Peevers, holding up his hands.
Papadakos, however, had no trouble finding her beverage.
"Yeah, I knocked it over," she smiled.
"That's why I got a water bottle," said MacIntyre. "So I wouldn't spill."
Clayton McCormick, also challenged by a blindfold, described his food-finding technique with a motion of his fork.
"Jabbing," said McCormick, who eventually tried to make things easier for himself by lowering his face almost to plate level. "To stop the food from falling."
The hardest challenge, said McCormick, was "eating it all." Getting something on your fork "and eating a bone."
"The chicken was the hardest part," nodded MacIntyre.
"I was wearing the goggles," said Bill Berg, "and my wife is blind, so she didn't have to wear them."
"I didn't (wear the glasses) because I can't see anyways," smiled Noreen Cooper.
"I guess I could have," she laughed. "Pretend."
"It's the first time I've tried it," said Berg. "I've never seen goggles like that before. You can see something, but you can't with the blindfold. With the blindfold I would have had to feel everything. You feel your food with your fork and knife.
"She knows how to do it because she has been doing it for years."
"I do pretty well that way," said Cooper. "I try not to use my fingers. Sure it's easier, but when you're going out to nice dinners... it's not easy."
Both Berg and Cooper enjoyed the meal and the whole Dinner in the Dark experience, which rasied funds for The Foundation Fighting Blindness and raised awareness.
"It was a great idea, I think it's a wonderful foundation and something I've never heard of before – I hope they raise lots of money," said Cooper, who has been vision impaired since she was in her 20s due to a detached retina.
"That sort of started the slippery slope," she said. "But I had a wonderful doctor in Toronto and I feel like I had a lot of bonus years, really. It was easier to adjust when it was over so many years... easier for me to accept it I guess.
"I have a little (vision)... but every day is different."
"Some days she can see a street light and some days she can't," Berg noted. "Sometimes she can see the moon. Not clearly, but..."
A silent auction before the meal, with items donated from the community, contributed to the Dinner in the Dark fund raising efforts. Jared Pettman provided his live aucioneering talents after the meal.
A total of 82 admission tickets were counted Wednesday night. Combined with the auctions, co-organizer Jack McCormick was confident Glendale High School's student council would surpass its $1,000 fundraising target.
"I definitely think people found it challenging," said McCormick. "Not to say too much of a pun, but I'd say it was quite 'eye opening.' Very difficult. But I found people very receptive to it. I saw a few people give up," he added with a smile, "but for the most part everyone tried and stuck with it."
McCormick, Glendale's student council Charity Minister, is himself vision impaired and understands the challenge.
"I don't know the exact percentage of my vision, but in my best eye, in perfect lighting conditions, what I can see when I'm standing at 20 feet, you can see the exact same thing from 125 feet. It varies from hour to hour. Stress, hunger, lighting conditions – I can't see when it's dark – and how tired I am. My eyes are less strong at night."
A graduating Grade 12 student at GHS, McCormick helped spearhead two fundraisers for The Foundation Fighting Blindness, including a fun-filled Glendale's Got Talent night.
"I'm really proud of what I've been able to do," he nodded. "Proud to do something good in my last year of high school."