CNIB celebrates 100 years of service with ‘Wine in the Dark’


Delectable wine. Scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. Classy smooth music. Good company. Sounds like a great Saturday night, right?

Too simple. Add blind folds to every guest.

That is the type of unique fundraiser event that CNIB (the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) hosted this weekend, with wine expert, Vinnie Greco.

Tickets were $50 a piece and included blind tastings of five carefully chosen wines, food, and then additional full glasses of wine after cake.

Entertainment was provided by talented students from the Algoma Conservatory of Music, John Yun on piano and Malia Kirk on violin.

All proceeds from the event will go towards programs and services for people in our local community who experienced vision loss.

I had the pleasure of not only attending the event as media to cover the fun – but also of volunteering to help act as a sighted guide and serve the guests.

It was a really raw experience to blindfold guests and bring them to their seats, show them where their seat is, assist them to sit, and show them exactly where full glasses of wine on the table were without their sense of sight, all the while treating them in a manner that is dignified and respectful of their personal space.

As a volunteer, it gave me a deeper respect, appreciation, and admiration for individuals who are visually-impaired, as well as their loved ones, friends, and support workers who are trained to guide and assist.

It is definitely not as easy as it looks to be responsible for someone getting safely from point A to point B when they cannot see.

It was also powerful in demonstrating the struggle that visually impaired people face on a day-to-day basis, and allowed for guests to really appreciate something fully-sighted people – such as myself – so often take for granted.

So many guests after they were seated said, ‘Wow, that was hard’ or ‘Wow, I could never do that.’

And guests got to hear first hand from those who do have to do that on a regular basis.

Larry Knapp, Master of Ceremonies for the event and longtime volunteer of CNIB, has been blind for sixty years.

He has never known what it is like to have normal vision.

Of CNIB’s founding, Knapp explained, “At the tail-end of the First World War, with the Halifax explosion, you could not have predicted a greater chaos in Canada.”

He went on, “It was the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. The fires it caused and the glass just left so many people blind and mutilated.”

Once the First World War ended and soldiers came home, there was an even greater number of blind and mutilated people trying to find their place in a world that was not equipped to accommodate them.

Canada did not know what to do with them or how to help them.

CNIB started with these veterans coming together to do something about it, with the hopes that they could make life better, easier, and more accessible for blind people.

He emphasized the importance of organizations, like CNIB, for “helping people find a way through.”

For more information on the work that CNIB does in our country and community, click here.

To learn more about the United Way’s services, click here.


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