A serious illness or injury involving hospitalization, often a frightening experience for children, is typically compounded by boredom and isolation from days or weeks of life in an institutional setting. It's now widely recognized that combating these psychological side-effects of in-patient care can boost patient morale and improve outcomes. With that in mind, Ryan Seacrest — American Idol host, radio personality, and TV producer — established the Ryan Seacrest Foundation (RSF) to enhance the quality of life for seriously ill and injured children. In the case of RSF, the vehicle is a series of broadcast media centers, called THE VOICE, that the foundation is building within pediatric hospitals to enable young patients to explore the creative realms of radio, television, and new media.
The first RSF media center opened recently at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, with another slated to open this summer at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Each location is designed and equipped as a fully-functional radio and TV broadcast studio, giving child patients the opportunity to actively participate in the hosting and production of live shows that will be seen and heard on closed circuit throughout the hospital. Children in their hospital rooms will also be able to participate by calling in requests and taking part in call-in programs.
Seacrest's broadcast engineer Brian Clark, who works with RSF on THE VOICE project, says the state-of-the-art facilities "wouldn't have been possible" without the support of a variety of broadcast manufacturers, including the contribution by Electro-Voice of RE family broadcast microphones. Seacrest himself has been using the RE27N/D broadcast microphone exclusively since 1995 for all his radio appearances, including his daily radio show.
"I am grateful to Electro-Voice for generously donating their microphones to the broadcast media centers my foundation is building in children's hospitals," Seacrest says. "With their support, we are able to create a positive form of interactive entertainment for young patients that provides them with an opportunity to experience being a disc jockey, play their favorite songs, and even interview celebrities"
Through his discussions with doctors during his visits to children's hospitals over the years, Seacrest learned that when kids are involved in some sort of engaging activity they are less focused on their pain and thus request less pain medication. That solidified Seacrest's determination, Clark says, to give kids in the hospital "a place to go to outside of their room, and also for kids who can't leave their rooms to be able to participate in something by requesting songs and communicating with kids in other rooms."
Clark says that Seacrest thought it would be good to expand the radio station concept into a media center that incorporates both an in-hospital radio station and a video conferencing system. "The station isn't terrestrial," Clark says, "but it connects throughout the hospital. The kids can come in and be DJs, playing any genre of music. They can go down there and get on the mic and start talking to other kids that are in their rooms, who can see them on closed circuit TV. And the kids in the rooms can call down and talk or make requests."
The media centers also provide a place for interviews and appearances by artists and celebrities that are arranged by the foundation and hospital. In Atlanta, that has so far included visits from players on the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Thrashers sports teams, as well as live performances by artists such as Parachute and American Idol contestants Crystal Bowersox, Kimberly Caldwell, and Kellie Pickler.
Clark adds that the media centers are "physically designed to work well for the kids, and they're large enough that a number of kids, even if they're in wheelchairs, can hang out there to spend some time out of their rooms." The foundation will engage an on-site facility manager at each center and will train students from local high schools and colleges to run the equipment, providing them with the opportunity to gain first hand experience in broadcast operations.
To Clark, the greatest satisfaction of RSF's work is the chance to help brighten the lives of children by taking their minds off of the difficulties inherent in their situation. "You can see how excited the kids are when they come into the media center," he says. "It's great to see them participating in everyday life even though they have to be in the hospital. They really light up, and it's really inspiring to see them smiling despite the challenges of sickness."