How two blind brothers became Two Blind Brothers for a cause

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Brothers, Bryan, left, and Bradford Manning, laugh as they tell the origin story of their clothing company, Two Blind Brothers, in their New York City loft on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. The brothers who've lost much of their vision to a rare degenerative eye disorder began their company in 2016 and have donated all of their profits, more than $700,000, to preclinical research trials to help cure blindness. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

NEW YORK – Would you buy something you can’t see?

That’s the question posed by two New York brothers who’ve lost much of their vision to a rare degenerative eye disorder and have dedicated their lives — and livelihoods — to raising money for a cure.

Bradford Manning, 35, and his 30-year-old brother, Bryan, are the founders of the clothing brand Two Blind Brothers. They’ve hit on a strategy that’s helped raise more than $700,000 for the cause: selling mystery boxes full of an assortment of their ultra-soft shirts, cozy socks, knit beanies and sunglasses.

The two turn over all profits from the boxes and their other sales to groups like the Foundation Fighting Blindness, funding research on retinal eye ailments like the one they’ve suffered from since they were 5, Stargardt disease. It’s an inherited form of macular degeneration that causes central vision loss over time.

“We just wanted to try and help and raise awareness, and just do something good,” said Bryan.

Since 2016, when they left their previous careers -- Brad worked for an investment firm and Bryan sold software -- they’ve picked up celebrity supporters like Ice-T and entrepreneur Richard Branson. Ellen DeGeneres helped with one of her famous Shutterfly checks for $30,000.

And the sale of their mystery boxes, costing from $30 to $200, is now a social media phenomenon.

Customers have included relatives of the blind, among them parents with vision impaired children; some have posted unboxing videos on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, with a few opening boxes blindfolded.