YES-FM celebrates 20 yearsWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Twenty years ago, Toledo Christian rock station YES-FM (89.3) flipped a switch and hit the airwaves with a welcome by founder Jim Oedy and a song, “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman.
It’s been a great adventure ever since, station officials said as they reflected on two decades of music, ministry and occasional mayhem.
Jim said it’s a miracle the nonprofit station ever made it on the air in the first place. Station manager Rev. Todd Hostetler says it’s a miracle YES-FM is still broadcasting.
Both credit YES’s success to sticking with God’s vision to reach young people with contemporary music that offers a positive, godly message.
“I just marvel at what God has done,” Hostetler said. “It’s like, ‘How did you do that, God?’”
“I don’t know why God gets me into these things,” said Jim, who has started several Christian businesses. “I’m just amazed that it all came together, but I knew God was going to do it.”
Jim first thought about starting a Christian station in Toledo in early 1990, but his wife, Cheryl, was not on the same page.
Then the Oedys took a vacation to Toronto with friends and came across a scene that changed Cheryl’s mind. They had toured the CN Tower and on the elevator ride down, a concert by rock band Motley Crue let out at the adjacent Skydome stadium.
The rowdy crowd came pouring through the ballpark’s exits like a sea of drunken and drugged humanity. Many rock fans were staggering as they walked. Some were howling at the moon, some were making lewd gestures and remarks as they passed by.
“That was the turning point for me. We stepped back and watched the crowd leave the building,” Cheryl said. “God impressed on my spirit that this is why we need Christian radio in Toledo.”
While Jim had no prior experience in radio, he sought out leaders in the Christian music industry who helped guide him through the process of starting a station.
Many urged him to play more middle-of-the-road Christian music rather than the hard rock and hip-hop that would appeal to young people. The listener demographic he was targeting wouldn’t have the money to support a radio station, the experts said.
When YES-FM went live at noon on Nov. 14, 1992, the first few minutes of the broadcast had been prerecorded thanks to the wisdom of morning show DJ Dave Campbell, known on air as DC Bash.
“Bash talked me out of doing it live. He said, ‘When they flip that switch and say we’re on, and that room full of people is going crazy, I promise you, you’ll lose it,’” Jim said.
Campbell knew what he was talking about.
“I listened to [the recording of] Jim Oedy announcing that YES-FM was coming on and I totally lost it,” Oedy said. “That would have been the most ridiculous opening ever — a guy just crying on the radio. But it just hit me as I was listening that God did this, and I had the privilege of maybe being in the front-row seat for a while.”
The station has sponsored countless Christian concerts over the years, including shows by tobyMac, Toledo’s own Sanctus Real, Margaret Becker, Phil Keaggy and Third Day.
When it was located in the Mill Youth Stop, from 1999 to 2007, YES-FM sponsored such events as a professional wrestling show and a series of Christian comedy nights.
The station has entertained listeners in colorful ways, including staging live Nativity scenes, DJs becoming “human sundaes,” and one morning show host broadcasting live from inside an orange barrel in a highway construction zone.
Hostetler said YES-FM has worked at building relationships with local churches and youth groups. He hosts “The Prayer Closet,” a radio show broadcast at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday in which Hostetler and guest pastors from the Toledo area take prayer requests from listeners.
“We are here in the community. You have access to us. You don’t get that with national stations,” Hostetler said.
(Editor’s Note: David Yonke’s wife, Janet, is the underwriting manager for YES-FM.)
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.