The evening will commemorate the organization’s 50th anniversary serving the Greater St. Louis community

BELLEVILLE, ILL. – MindsEye is excited to announce the 2023 Fr. Boniface Wittenbrink, OMI Visionary Award winners for the upcoming 20th Annual Soiree Gala on Friday, April 14 at the Chase Park Plaza. The gala raises vital funds that will open doors of opportunity, accessibility, and connection for Greater St. Louis and Central Illinois community members who are blind or have low vision.

The OMI Visionary Awards are named after the organization’s founder, Fr. Boniface Wittenbrink, OMI, a priest in the Catholic order the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. Wittenbrink worked with Lions Clubs and other organizations to begin WMRY’s Talking Book which provided readings of newspapers and magazines to thousands of people with print impairments. It was only the third reading service of its kind in the world.

“When approached about starting a Radio Information Service, our founder famously replied that he didn’t know anything about blindness or running a radio station but said, ‘If you think I can help, I’ll do it.’ This year’s honorees exemplify that statement beyond anything Fr. Boni could have ever imagined. We are honored to recognize this year’s award winners,” said MindsEye Executive Director Jason Frazier.

Emmy award-winning sports commentator Bob Costas (pictured right) will be the first recipient of the award recognizing his early volunteer work with the organization. Costas was a friend and associate of Wittenbrink which began during his time working at KMOX radio in St. Louis in 1974. Costas will accept the award by video.

The newly formed Major League Soccer team St. Louis City SC will be the second recipient of the award in recognition of their dedication to providing Audio Description at their home matches. Audio Description provides attendees with a visual disability the opportunity to join family and friends for the event. The attendee uses a MindsEye headset and listens to a trained audio describer relay the visual information in real time.

Bob Costas headshot

“Accessibility is a priority for St. Louis CITY SC, and we want to make sure our fans with visual impairments can experience the action on the pitch,” said St. Louis CITY SC Director of Community Relations Barbra Silva. “We are grateful to partner with MindsEye and look forward to working together to bring soccer for all.”

Lastly, MindsEye will honor longstanding Soiree Committee Chair and former MindsEye Board President Debbie Andrews. Andrews has been a volunteer for over 25 years.

“When I began volunteering for MindsEye as a student, I had no idea of the significance the organization would have in my life or the impact I would be able to make in our community. I’m truly overwhelmed to receive this honor. Thank you,” said Andrews.

The evening’s program will also discuss the organization’s years of responding to new needs as it has grown beyond a radio station to become the region’s only provider of live Audio Description and competitive adaptive athletics for community members who are blind or have low vision.

In addition to the Greater St. Louis area, MindsEye has recently expanded services to Springfield, Illinois, and the Central Illinois community. MindsEye works with Springfield Radio Information Service (RIS), formerly operated by WUIS 91.9 NPR Illinois, with programming that promotes independence, including hyper-local news and grocery store ads. With grant funding from the Illinois State Library, listeners can receive the new broadcast via sideband receiver radio, streaming on the MindsEye website, Amazon Alexa skill, or the recently released MindsEye iOS app. MindsEye will now serves the following counties: Adams, Brown, Cass, Christian, DeWitt, Logan, Macon, Mason, Menard, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, and Shelby.

About MindsEye
The nonprofit MindsEye strives to build a more inclusive community by translating vision into audio for individuals who are blind or have low vision. The Broadcast Information Program provides listeners access to long-form journalism and local news. The Audio Description Program enables every person who attends a theatre production or museum exhibit the chance to enjoy a rewarding experience. The Adaptive Athletics Program raises awareness and provides educational and competitive opportunities for athletes who are blind or partially sighted. For more information, visit


Media Contact: Laura Foughty – Development and Communications Coordinator, | 618-394-6221

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