Dining in the Dark Experience

On Sunday, June 3, Friedman Place held our first Dining in the Dark Experience Event. Over 50 guests had the unique experience of being blindfolded and led into our Dining Room by sighted guides. Once situated at their tables, the blindfolds were removed to reveal total darkness. Once some tips for eating in the dark were provided by our Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist – Judith Querciagrossa, our guests enjoyed (or at least tried to enjoy!) a vegetarian meal complete with soup, salad and wine!

As the meal ended, two of our employees – both of whom live with blindness – shared their stories of losing their vision, how they adapted and how they are doing currently.  Allen West – our computer instructor – spoke of losing his sight as a young child and his fearlessness; while Jeff Flodin – one of our social workers – talked about all of the emotions and adaptations he experienced as he lost his vision in his 30’s and 40’s. Their experiences are very different, but they also have a lot in common, each lives independently, they both have guide dogs and they both work at Friedman Place! They happily answered questions from the audience at the end of their presentation.

Once the presentations ended, our Executive Director – Alexander Brown, answered additional questions and then lit a candle to slowly bring some light into the Dining Room. More candles appeared and dessert was served while guests mingled with each other as the event came to an end. As people left, staff heard many positive reactions from our guests, we look forward to hosting another similar event in the future.

To learn more about upcoming events, please visit our Upcoming and Recent Events page.
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Meet Susie

Susie was born in 1974, at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. She was premature and weighed just two and one-half pounds. As part of her treatment, she was placed in an incubator and, unfortunately, the high levels of oxygen damaged her eyes, resulting in blindness. This was not an uncommon experience in earlier decades, it became far less common by the 1970’s and is very rare today. Known as “A Miracle Baby”, she stayed in the hospital for 80 days! Susie’s parents and family provided a loving environment and supported her in every way. At the age of three (3), she learned to feel different textures and worked hard to read Braille (which she fully mastered by adolescence!). Later she attended a special school program at Skinner and Farnsworth Elementary Schools in Chicago.

For high school, she enrolled at Carl Schurz High School where she was an excellent student and graduated in 1993. She then enrolled at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education, where she was a very persistent, tenacious student and furthered her adaptive skills so she could be as independent as possible. She attended other training programs for persons who are blind and worked for some time packaging home-care products and doing clerical work.

Susie really wanted to help others and become a volunteer tutor, so she participated in several programs for persons who are blind and taught several subjects, including: Braille, arithmetic, spelling, basic typing on the and Word Perfect 5.1.

Susie is a woman of many talents and interests. She writes poetry and is a fan of music. She most enjoys attending concerts and is a loyal fan to many favorite performers, but her favorite is Joan Jett. She wrote a beautiful poem about Joan Jett and has been to many of her concerts. As she expressed herself, “I started going to Joan Jett’s concerts in May of 1998.  I’ve been to eleven (11) of her concerts and this year was my 12th. Soon, I’ll be going to my 13th concert. I got a chance to give Joan Jett a hug and take pictures and to tell her I’ve been her fan since as was seven (7) and she is awesome!”

Resident with flowers

She was introduced to Friedman Place as a volunteer and became a model volunteer – she was extremely impressed by the high quality, committed staff and community members.   Shortly after she began volunteering at Friedman Place, her volunteer position came to end, leaving her isolated at home.  She valued her independence and did not want to burden family members for rides or entertainment.  Additionally, she wanted to be sure she had a place to live as her parents aged, so she initiated the process to join the community at Friedman Place. She recalled her excitement when she finally became a resident, as she reflects: “I was so happy on that fateful day of June 27, 2011. I became an official resident at Friedman Place. I want to stay here for life!”

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