Radio broadcasting is something John Graham has been passionate about since he was in high school. As a student growing up with autism in Northeast Indiana, he found that radio helped him connect with individuals outside of his comfort zone.
So as a 2011 Autism Society of Indiana award winner, Graham got the idea to make a positive impact on the community of Fort Wayne—and the world—by making his online radio station dream a reality.
He founded the nonprofit, Radio for a Cause, to empower individuals with disabilities by teaching them about media, starting with radio broadcasting. In addition to his own projects, Graham also works as a producer with ESPN and WOWO in Fort Wayne. He uses his expertise to help others determine the skills they have and/or need to learn. Then, volunteers shadow Graham on air, and he helps them build their own radio shows based on their favorite music or subjects they find fascinating.
Graham says his volunteers usually take about six weeks of training before they feel confident to broadcast on their own.
Building on Radio with a Cause's success, Graham decided to launch Spectrum 23.9 to showcase their work. Spectrum 23.9 is the first online radio station that allows individuals who are on the Autism spectrum to be on the air. The name came from a contest that Radio for a Cause led online nationwide.
While the station has a handful of listeners so far, its numbers keep rising, and it is building a global movement.
“It’s not rare these days if we see a listener from Germany, South Africa, or even California that has been listening for 12-hours straight,” Graham says.
And support from the Fort Wayne community is making this movement possible.
Spectrum 23.9 was able to launch in September 2018 with the help of its unaffiliated event coordinator Jordain King, as well as support from Sweetwater, Partners in Autism, and the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne. Sweetwater owners, Chuck and Lisa Surack, donated much of the equipment used today by Spectrum 23.9's team.
Currently heard on the airwaves, you can catch favorites like "Jake’s Picks" with Spectrum 23.9’s Sports Reporter, Jacob Bradtmueller. Bradtmueller is an alumni supporter of the Woodlan Warriors in Allen County. The Spectrum team also hosts community-building events, like attending Trans-Siberian Orchestra concerts, Tincaps games, movie nights, or pizza parties together, too.
Even after COVID-19 hit Fort Wayne, Graham's team has been able to utilize their national network to keep innovating. He invited Kayden Gordon from Massachusetts to become a co-host of Spectrum's show, “The Sunday Remix 2.0." Every Sunday afternoon, Graham, Gordon, and Bradtmueller host the show, where they play games, take requests, and share all different types of music. Gordon also hosts his own two-hour country music show called "The Kayden Gordon Show," which also airs on Spectrum 23.9 on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings.
Together, Gordon and Graham are now launching Radio for a Cause's Under Age Radio Training Program, which helps people under the age of 18 learn how to become radio DJs. They started this program by working with a few students worldwide. Now, Gordon hopes to work with students at his high school in Winchendon, Massachusetts. The school’s guidance counselor has helped him gather a few students to start the program over the summer. (If anyone is interested, they can register on Radio for a Cause’s website.)
Looking to the future, Graham recently launched a 10-year GoFundMe campaign on May 27 to raise $550,000. He wants to purchase a commercial building in Fort Wayne to anchor Radio for a Cause in the community and create paying jobs for individuals with disabilities. Eventually, his team would even like to transport their workers to and from home.
Hear for yourself what this global movement is all about by tuning into Spectrum 23.9 today.
Spectrum 23.9 can be heard on their website at thespectrum239.com or by downloading The Spectrum 23.9 app on Google Play or the Apple store. Spectrum 23.9 can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.