ORLANDO, Fla. — After months of taking selfies with a cardboard cutout of Ryan Seacrest in the halls of the hospital they call home, 3-year-old Amor and her mom Jenn upgraded from the 2D version to the real deal last week.
Seacrest stopped by Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children on Friday for a belated in-person celebration of the newest Seacrest Studio, which provides patients with an interactive space to explore radio, television, and social media.
“We see [the cardboard cutout] every week when we come by for labs,” Jenn said. “We, unfortunately, live here, and we always walk by and we always wave.”
The studio at Arnold Palmer, which launched amid the pandemic in 2020, is the 11th opened by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation in the country and the only one in Florida. Seacrest said he created the studios to give patients a place where they can be the stars and forget about their medical treatments.
“When patients and their families are going through something tough, I think that’s why we wanted to create this space, so they can forget about the tough stuff and be a kid and have fun in here,” the “American Idol” host said.
Content created in the studio is broadcast on TVs throughout the hospital, including in patients’ rooms. That includes a morning news show every weekday, live game shows, and guest celebrity interviews. The programs are hosted and produced by patients, interns and Seacrest Studio staff.
“The idea is to have this centralized heartbeat for the hospital, something that there’s something always happening here and if something’s not, something’s about to happen here,” Seacrest said. “That energy is what we wanted to create, and it looks like it’s working.”
A group of patients and their families joined Seacrest in the studio on Friday to do a live radio show broadcast, peppering him with questions.
“I think interviewing celebrities all my life has prepared me for these kids here and these patients. Because they are so energetic, they’re very curious and they’re quick on their feet. And they have great sense of humor,” Seacrest said.
The radio host asked questions back, focusing on the children’s interests and hobbies. He promised a young patient named Chasity that he’d find out what’s on Mariah Carey’s playlist and get an answer back to her – along with an autograph.
“They are very candid and willing to ask anything because they’re brave, and they go for it, and that’s what makes it fun,” Seacrest said.
He said hearing from patients and their families, like Amor and Chasity, about how the studio helps them find levity in otherwise heavy times inspires him to continue expanding the studios.
The Ryan Seacrest Foundation plans to open three new studios this year in children’s hospitals in Memphis, Tennessee; Queens, New York; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I remember one parent telling me that her child was really fighting her to go get treatment, she had to go all the time to go get treatment, and after spending time in the studio after a few months, her child was asking her if she could come to get treatment because she wanted to come to spend time in the studio,” Seacrest said. “I think it’s moments like that and stories like that which is why we do this across the country.”
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