Wheeling Lions Club President Emily Fisher is trying to give her fellow members a brief experience of life without eyesight, asking one member to attend the weekly meeting blindfolded.
Among its humanitarian efforts, the Lions Club historically has worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye care.
"I'm a strong believer that in order to serve an organization or a group of people you need to semi-experience, as much as possible, what they're living so that you can understand why you're raising that money or serving that group," Fisher said.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Wheeling Lions Club member Brendan Leary eats lunch blindfolded during the club’s meeting at WesBanco Arena.
Lions Club member Brendan Leary said he felt detached and isolated while sitting blindfolded among his fellow Lions during a recent meeting. He also went on to comment how difficult it was to eat lunch without vision.
"It was a dramatic example of what sight challenged people go through," Leary said of the experience. "Even the basic tasks of everyday living are difficult. It just gave me a tremendous sense of helplessness."
Fisher said she asks an unsuspecting club member to don the blindfold immediately after they enter the meeting. That person is then forced to rely upon a fellow club member to walk them through the buffet, selecting their lunch for them.
Fellow Lions Club member Dolph Santorine said the experience was "completely overwhelming."
Santorine said he realized how much he relies upon visual cues, recalling the difficulty he had in recognizing individuals solely by the sound of their voice. Because he was not able to visually concentrate on those who were speaking, their voices were overtaken by the surrounding noise, he added.
"It really changes your world for a little bit," Fisher said. "But I think it's been a great experience for all of us to, just for a short period of time, experience what it's like to not be able to see."