How Ryan Seacrest Is Creating Mini-Me's Across the Country
This story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ryan Seacrest long has been an overachiever, what with his hosting gigs (American Idol, his radio show and, soon, NBC's Million Second Quiz), supervisory duties at E! News and heading Ryan Seacrest Productions (E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Bravo's Shahs of Sunset). But of his many ventures, none makes the Atlanta native prouder than the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, the nonprofit he formed in 2010 with his sister, Meredith, and parents, Gary and Connie.
The foundation's main mission: building top-of-the-line mini-broadcast centers in the lobbies of children's hospitals from coast to coast. RSF boasts five participating hospitals so far: in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas and Orange County, Calif., with the newest opening in Charlotte, N.C., on July 29. The studios allow sick kids an opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of radio and television (both from local journalism students and visiting talent giants such as Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and David Beckham), to tape their own segments and watch them on a closed-circuit television network.
"Parents would often say that their kids ran out of things to do," explains Seacrest. "They would get bored essentially being in their beds, so I tried to think of what we could do to create more activities in the hospital that didn't leave anyone out."
Seacrest worked with designers on the plans and engineering for the massive structures and recruited his bosses at Clear Channel for support and equipment. "I drew from the studios I built before," says the FM veteran. "This is something tangible -- you build, you help staff it, you program it by booking celebrities and musicians to come through when they're on tour."
Among the artists who have given their time and heart is Selena Gomez, who was named ambassador of the foundation in 2012. What does she remember most from her visit to her hometown of Dallas in November to help open the studio there? "How happy the kids seemed," says the singer, who also is an ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "To be able to escape their everyday struggles and have fun can make all the difference in the world. Ryan makes the experience so uplifting and encouraging, even though the kids are going through such a difficult time."