Ryan Seacrest, most famous for his long stint as host of the popular television show “American Idol,” is a man of many endeavors. With his many accomplishments he not only has reached success in the media world but has also turned that success into an amazing foundation that targets hurting children. Combining Seacrest’s many years behind a microphone and his love of helping children, The Ryan Seacrest Foundation was created to bring the world of media and journalism to help sick or injured children in hospitals across the nation.
Raised With a Microphone In Hand
Seacrest was born in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up playing with toy microphones instead of the usual action figures loved by most boys. His time behind a real microphone began when he was just a high schooler, having earned an internship at a local Atlanta radio station. When one of the broadcasters called in sick, Seacrest was given the chance to go on air. He continued work at the radio station until he graduated from high school in 1992. Seacrest then briefly attended the University of Georgia, majoring in journalism. At the age of 19 he left college and moved to Hollywood to start his career.
His career quickly got off the ground as he hosted multiple television and game shows between 1993-2001. Seacrest’s big break came when he started hosting “American Idol” in 2002. The show thrust Seacrest into the national spotlight and quickly made him a household name. He continued his work as host of the show until 2016. In the meantime, Seacrest began branching out and became the Executive Producer and Co-Host of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” show on ABC in 2005. He has continued to be the show’s host since then. In May of 2017, Seacrest was named the new host of “Live With Kelly,” joining longtime host Kelly Ripa.
Seacrest has worked in both television and radio and has hosted “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” (formerly known as “American Top 40”), where he reviewed the hottest music of the week. He also is a well-known television producer, starting Ryan Seacrest Productions in 2008. He has helped produce a variety of programs, including red carpet award shows from E! News. He also expanded his production work by signing a deal with NBCUniversal, becoming a regular contributor to the “Today Show,” as well as doing Olympics coverage. His most well known show, “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” quickly became a hit series for both Seacrest and the E! News network.
Seacrest first got the idea for his foundation while visiting a hospital in California in 2005. He asked parents of sick children what they needed most, and the overwhelming response was that kids needed something to do during their long hospital stays. Seacrest’s response was to create The Ryan Seacrest Foundation in 2010. The foundation focuses on raising the spirits of hospitalized children by actually involving patients in broadcast media. The foundation has built broadcast media centers, known as Seacrest Studios, in ten children’s hospitals in the United States—so far. These broadcast media centers allow patients to work with state of the art equipment, as well as meet the many entertainment stars that regularly frequent the locations.
A Family Affair
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation is run by Ryan’s family, who conceived the idea over family dinner one night. Ryan is the Chairman and Founder, while his father, Gary, is the President and CEO. Meredith, Ryan’s sister, is the Executive Director and COO of the foundation; his mother Connie is Vice President and in charge of Community Affairs and Hospital Relations. The group states that, “Creating this foundation has not only brought us closer as a family, but as a team, we are truly passionate about our mission and what we have accomplished together.”
The Foundation’s Mission
The mission of The Ryan Seacrest Foundation is to help children heal during their stays in the hospital by providing them with a break from their conditions. Built with children in mind, Seacrest Studios are accessible to both patients and their families. Not only do children get to see broadcasting equipment up close, but they also get the chance to put on a set of headphones and record themselves while sitting behind a microphone. Local journalism students in the community are also given the opportunity to learn about programming and broadcasting by having access to the professional-level equipment located in the studios.
Each Seacrest Studio is slightly different, depending on the space available in the hospital’s lobby. The state-of-the-art equipment usually includes a host microphone, guest microphones, video cameras, radio equipment, and a green screen. A full-time manager runs each studio and provides programming for patients, including dance parties, game shows, lip sync battles, celebrity interviews, live music performances, bingo, and educational series. The Seacrest Studios are used to provide a wide range of programming to hospital patients either in person or on a closed circuit network in their hospital room.
There are currently ten Seacrest Studio locations across the United States. The first hospital, located in Seacrest’s hometown of Atlanta, was the Children’s Healthcare hospital, which opened in 2010. The following year Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia welcomed a Seacrest Studio and was joined by the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas in 2012. The next year was a big one for the foundation as it opened studios at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California, the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. Denver’s Children’s Hospital Colorado opened its Seacrest Studio in 2014, followed by the Boston Children’s Hospital later that year. The foundation continued to expand its reach by opening a studio in the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. in 2015 and, most recently, a studio in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2016.
Making a Difference for Patients and Families
Both patients and parents are seeing the difference that the Seacrest Studios are making. One mother recently stated, “My 12 year old daughter has a serious disease that will require her to have a liver transplant while she is still young. We spend a lot of time in hospitals and switched her care last fall to CHOA in Atlanta. Although we wish she didn’t have to return to the hospital so often, she actually looks forward to each visit because of the studio. The work, care and donation The Ryan Seacrest Foundation has made available to the children’s hospital has made a huge difference for our child. Instead of dreading each trip, she actually looks forward to coming back to Atlanta . . . and spends every minute that she can at the station.”
Lily, a 15-year-old patient at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, stated, “I have had my share of stays for a lot of different illnesses ever since I was 9. As much as I dread staying at the hospital, I can at least look forward to this . . . this really does make a difference.”
Bryn, mother to Carson aged 13, adds, “I want to thank you so much for the studio inside the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. My son has been seriously ill for 8 months. We have been in this hospital for several weeks with no end in sight. The studio has given him something to look forward to every afternoon—a reason to get out of bed. After all he has been through I can’t thank you enough for this studio and this great idea. I just wanted you to know that your vision of giving children a positive experience is being realized.”
Helping To Guide Future Broadcasters
Besides helping children have positive hospital experiences, The Ryan Seacrest Foundation connects to the community by reaching out to area students who want to go into broadcasting. Local students who want to pursue a career in communications, journalism, or the music business are encouraged to apply to the internship programs available at each hospital location. Once accepted into a program, students learn firsthand about broadcasting, as well as creating excellent programs for patients.
The interns love the studios. As Danielle, a local college student, says: “I can honestly say that this internship has been one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have I made lasting connections with my fellow interns and CHOA staff but I’ve been blessed to come into contact with some of the funniest, brightest, and strongest little people I’ve ever met! I have learned the ins and outs of working at a broadcast media center and producing a successful radio show.”
Students in local journalism programs are encouraged to apply for the Internship program at each studio location. Interested students can apply directly for the internship program by contacting the hospital nearest them with a Seacrest Studio.
An Award Winning Foundation
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation recently won an award from The Cynopsis Social Good Awards. In 2016, the foundation won the Kids Awareness Campaign initiative. The foundation was in good company as the other nominees included the Cartoon Network, Disney Interactive, Nickelodeon, Optimedia, Sesame Workshop, TWC NY1 News, and the Viacom International Media Networks.
Many celebrities regularly visit Seacrest Studios. The first celebrities to be named Ryan Seacrest Foundation Celebrity Ambassadors were Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas in 2012. The celebrity ambassadors are responsible for helping create special moments in the studios, as well as develop awareness for the foundation. The current celebrity ambassador is American singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter.
Musical groups like “Rascal Flatts” and “All American Rejects” have visited the studios, as have famous singers, including Ariana Grande, Carrie Underwood, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, and John Legend. Actors like Chris Pratt and Taylor Lautner have also stopped by to cheer up the patients. Rappers Ludacris and Travie McCoy have visited the studios, and Olympic athletes Ryan Lochte and Aly Raisman have made appearances at a number of hospitals. Even the former first lady, Michelle Obama, took time out of her busy schedule to cheer up hurting children and families at a Seacrest Studio.
Founding Sponsors: Coca-Cola & E! Entertainment
Coca-Cola is one of the two founding sponsors of The Ryan Seacrest Foundation. The company describes its involvement with this great foundation in glowing terms: “Coca-Cola is very proud of its on-going and very personal relationship with Ryan Seacrest’s mission to contribute positively to the healing process for children and their families during stays at children’s hospitals while bringing an uplifting spirit to the hospital community—a perfect fit with the Live Positively commitment at Coca-Cola.”
The other founding sponsor, E! Entertainment, was also very excited about its involvement in the foundation: “All of us at E! are extremely proud of our partnership with The Ryan Seacrest Foundation and are endlessly inspired by Ryan’s commitment to enrich and brighten the lives of patients and families at pediatric hospitals through this wonderful organization. We have seen firsthand the tremendous impact that RSF’s entertainment and education programs have had in bringing joy and excitement to young people who are going through incredible hardships.”
How to Get Involved
Those wanting to get involved in giving to The Ryan Seacrest Foundation can do so in a variety of ways. Monetary donations are tax-deductible, since the foundation is a 501c3 organization. Financial donations are used to help build more broadcast media centers in more hospitals around the nation. Volunteers are always needed at the specific hospital locations with Seacrest Studios. Interested volunteers should contact the hospital directly to find out more about volunteering their time and talent to help hurting children and their families.
For others who may not be located near a Seacrest Studio, The Ryan Seacrest Foundation encourages them to use their voices to spread the word about the good that is being done for sick children and their families. Social media is a great way to tell people about the positive work being done with Seacrest Studios, and the foundation can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Simply “like” and share their posts to get others involved!
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation also encourages those wanting to get involved to set up a campaign to raise funds to build more Seacrest Studios. If you have testimony on how a Seacrest Studio has helped you, your child, or someone you know please share it with the foundation at its website and sign up to receive the Foundation’s eNewsletter and to stay up to date on news and current volunteer opportunities.
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation has opened at least one Seacrest Studio every year since its beginning in 2010. Hospitals that are interested in inviting The Ryan Seacrest Foundation into their location must first fill out a hospital questionnaire located on the foundation’s website. The questionnaire goes through basic information about the hospital, including the number of hospital beds and available lobby space for a 1,000 square foot studio. Other questions involve a timeline for construction and information about the hospital’s current volunteer and intern programs.
Ryan’s Future Goals For The Foundation
Ryan Seacrest shows no signs of slowing down his goals for the foundation. Now that ten Seacrest Studios have been finished, he wants to connect those studios to each other to create the first pediatric entertainment network. This would allow the studios to share programming and experiences so that children in Philadelphia can experience the shows coming from Nashville and vice versa.
Ryan is a busy guy—there is no doubt about that—but he is committed to giving back and will continue to make philanthropy a priority. He is currently involved in other charities as well, including the Dosomething.org and Dogs in Danger charities. He also supports twenty other causes, ranging from poverty and bullying to the creative arts.
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation has helped many children and their families across the United States. Giving sick children the opportunity to get out of their hospital beds to watch, or even be a part of, programming that is happening in their hospital is helping to raise spirits. The foundation’s goal of providing sick children with hope and healing is being realized every day with the help of celebrity guests. The foundation is also changing the lives of future broadcasters, who are learning firsthand about how broadcasting works in preparation for their future careers. The Ryan Seacrest Foundation is changing lives and providing hope to patients who face daily medical struggles in an effort to better the community and help facilitate healing.