TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - What is more important: seeing or feeling? For brothers Brad and Bryan Manning, their livelihood has become answering that question.
Growing up in Virginia, Bryan and Brad were called the two blind brothers. Now that's what they call themselves.
As kids, they were diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a condition that causes a person's sight to worsen over time, leaving patients with only their peripheral vision. Imagine wearing goggles schmeared in the middle with Vaseline; that's how their sight is best described.
Four years ago, they were shopping in New York and realized they were both buying the same shirt, without knowing the price, the brand, or the color.
The lightbulb was on. Two Blind Brothers Clothing Company was born with two goals: To make the world's softest shirt - which they've determined is a mix of bamboo, cotton, and spandex – and raise awareness about Stargardt.
Each Two Blind Brothers Clothing Company shirt is printed with one of three words in braille: Brother, vision, or feel, and a tag that says the color.
"When you are blind or visually impaired, shopping is a disaster," said Bryan. "When you are feeling around for that t-shirt you love in the dark, in your closet in the morning, you know when you come across the one you love the most."
As for raising awareness, a now-viral Facebook video about their shirts explains, "We have created this clothing company to raise awareness and bring funds to this cause."
The profits on their lines of shirts, pants, and other products go to researching cures for blindness. At first, their goal was to raise a million dollars. They are already halfway there. Tampa's Lions Eye Institute is honoring them at their September fundraising ball.
About 100,000 customers later, they are halfway to their goal of raising $1 million for research, but the Manning brothers say the mission is about so much more.
"Having the right self-esteem is much more important than the vision impairment," Brad said.
For more about the Lion's Eye Institute, visit https://lionseyeinstitute.org/