Hope in Focus presents Dinner in the Dark: A One-of-a-Kind Sensory and Culinary Experience

 In News

Hope in Focus will host its signature fundraising event of the year – Dinner in the Dark – on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa in Groton.

Dinner in the Dark is a highly anticipated event for the Ledyard-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Guests can expect a unique sensory and culinary experience, while wearing a blindfold and enjoying a gourmet meal. The menu is secret, known only to guests who can read a Braille-scripted menu.

Hope in Focus provides information and support globally to individuals and families affected by Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare inherited retinal disease. While some children diagnosed with LCA are born with little or no vision, others may have significant vision loss in the first few years of life, stable vision for a period of time, and eventually total vision loss.

Hope in Focus also raises funds for access to genetic testing – an imperative step to find the gene mutation causing any of the 27 identified forms of LCA – and to support research advances to treat blindness.

Laura Manfre, co-founder and board chair of Hope in Focus, said the event came back with a bang last year after a two-year pandemic pause. “We are so grateful we were able to once again raise funds to support treatments for blindness for our rare disease community,” Manfre said. “Since then, our community has grown, as has the need to fund research and provide information and outreach to those living with retinal disease and to the entire ecosystem involved in advancing treatments, including industry and regulators like the Food and Drug Administration.”

“The funds raised from this event – which draws an audience from across southeastern Connecticut and the United States – remain critical to our mission, and we’re looking forward to having an even stronger turnout this year.”

Director of Outreach and Development Courtney Coates said all proceeds from the event and the auction fund research and advocacy efforts for people who hope to one day have treatments to improve their vision or halt vision loss.

“With one treatment on the market today and several clinical trials underway for LCA,” Coates said, “continued research in this space is promising. And as that promise grows, there is more work that we know we need to do to keep it moving forward.”

Many sponsors are helping the organization to meet its fundraising goal and add to the excitement of the evening. Simply Majestic is making a generous contribution by donating Majestic Boxes that will be opened simultaneously at the event, with one lucky winner taking home a grand prize valued at $5,000; Angelini Wine and Beer’d Brewing are providing wine and beer pairings with dinner; and Foxwoods Resort and Casino is contributing to the menu, offsetting the organization’s expenses and, in turn, allowing Hope in Focus to provide its guests a stellar gourmet experience.


Event sponsors: 

ABC PhotoLab

Andersen Oil Company

Angelini Wine, Ltd.

Atsena Therapeutics

Beer’d Brewing Co.

Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT

Charter Oak Federal Credit Union

Chelsea Groton Bank

Design Intervention, LLC

Dominion Energy

Duncklee Cooling & Heating Inc.

Eighty Six Media

Electric Boat

Eyecare Expressions

Foundation Fighting Blindness

Foxwoods Resort & Casino

Gales Ferry Medical Group

Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce

Groton Eye Center

Groton Utilities

Hartford Healthcare – Backus Hospital

Hoyt, Filippetti & Malaghan, LLC


Lawrence + Memorial Hospital

Liberty Bank

Meira GTx

Melissa Allen Pilates & Movement

Mohegan Tribe

Morning Light

Mystic Aquarium

Mystic Financial Group

Pillar Patient Advocates

Simply Majestic

Southeast Connecticut Eye Care


Spark Therapeutics

The Remote Coxswain

TMG Companies

Valenti Auto Mall

Dragonfly Equestrian Center


For more information on Dinner in the Dark, to purchase tickets, and to view the sponsorship opportunities, please visit our website hopeinfocus.org/dinner. Tickets are $175 per person or $2,020 for a 20/20 Vision Table Patron (table of eight with preferred seating). Sponsor opportunities start at $500. For more information on sponsorships, please contact Courtney Coates at courtney@hopeinfocus.org or 860-266-6062.


About Hope in Focus


Hope in Focus is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded as Sofia Sees Hope in 2014 by Laura Manfre and Charles Priebe, parents of a child born with the rare, inherited blinding retinal disease, Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). The global organization is dedicated to advancing treatments for blindness by raising funds for research and by providing information and support to the LCA community. Hope in Focus bridges the unnecessary chasm between the people who inform the science, and the science that transforms how people live, while keeping families and individuals living with this rare disease in focus each step of the way.

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