Ellen DeGeneres surprised two UVA brothers with charitable donation

Their clothing line raises funds for blindness research, as both brothers have a degenerative eye disease

UVA alumni Bryan (CLAS¬†’13) and Bradford (Comm School ’07) Manning were expecting to go on the Ellen DeGeneres show January 5 to talk about their clothing company¬†Two Blind Brothers. What they weren’t expecting, however, was the $30,000 check Ellen made out to their company in support of their cause.

Bradford and Bryan launched their line this summer to raise funds for blindness research and stem cell therapies that could slow or possibly even reverse vision loss.

The brothers’ vision for their clothing line came from their own personal experience of living with a degenerative eye condition called Stargardt disease. Bryan explained on the show how the disease affects about 10 million people in the country and creates trouble metabolizing vitamin A in the eyes which causes one to lose center vision while keeping a little of the peripheral.

The brothers explained how their disease affects the way they shop:

“When we go shopping we touch everything like we’re five years old,” Bryan said, “and whenever we come across something soft that we really like that’s when we take a look at it.”

The brothers went on to realize when they were shopping one day and ended up buying the same shirt after losing each other in the store that, even though they suffer loss of vision, it’s given them a new experience of the sense of touch.

“We thought that would be an incredible way to try and give back,” explained Bryan.

The brothers formed the company and neither of them takes a salary from it, strictly relying on income from their day jobs in New York City.

After some questioning from Ellen about their disease and the company, Ellen informed the brothers that she would like to buy a shirt and jokingly took out an extravagant purse from behind her chair. She took out a checkbook and then asked the audience if they would all like a shirt, after which an oversized checkbook was brought out that even the two brothers could see. The check was made out to their company by Ellen and the publishing company Shutterfly for $30,000.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful,” Bradford stated. He said most of the money will go directly to the research programs that the company supports, perhaps with some reserved for future marketing campaigns or other efforts to raise awareness and funding for new research.

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