At Seacrest Studios, child patients get a personal show
Queens University of Charlotte student Maxwell Millington isn’t fetching coffee at his internship this summer. He’s set up in the lobby of Levine Children’s Hospital, hosting a radio show for patients.
Millington, 20, has worked at the radio station, Seacrest Studios, for the nearly two years it has been broadcasting. The studio is one of eight that operate in children’s hospitals across the country, created by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.
College students intern in the studio, which broadcasts a closed-circuit radio show onto TVs in patients’ rooms. The three-hour show includes music, games and a talk show with content tailored for the kids watching.
Mamie Shepherd interned at the first studio in Atlanta for three years while she studied at the University of Georgia. Now, she is the program coordinator in Charlotte. She said the station, which celebrates its two-year anniversary July 29, is a welcome site for kids, especially those who are often at the hospital.
“It makes it a less scary place to walk into,” she said. “This is the first stop for them.”
I’ve gotten past the point where it counts as college credit, so I’m just here because I love it and to help kids in the hospital.
Queens University of Charlotte student Maxwell Millington
Patients can call into the show from the phone in their room and talk on air or play games like guessing a theme song or bingo. Some even come downstairs to see the interns in action or to talk into the mic.
“They are very curious about everything going on,” Millington said.
An 8-year-old patient and her younger brother got to visit the studio after regularly calling in to play bingo. She hadn’t been able to come into the studio before because of health restrictions, but the hospital staff worked with the studio to set up a special show just for the two children.
The staff sanitized the studio and wore protective gowns and gloves while the kids called the game.
“Something as simple as bingo, we don’t really think about the impact it has,” Shepherd said. “But for this one child, this was the highlight of her week every single week.”
Celebrities and special guests regularly visit to see patients and perform on-air, including pop stars Ed Sheeran and Demi Lovato and Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, who lives in Charlotte. Although famous guests come to the hospital occasionally anyway, the studio draws them in more regularly to meet the kids, Millington said.
“You don’t know all the time how exactly they benefit from it directly,” he said. “But there are over 200 beds here in the hospital, and if one person’s watching and they’re having a good time, then you’re doing something important.”
After visiting the studio, kids “hold their heads a little higher,” Shepherd said.
“It’s a confidence booster and helps them find that voice inside them,” she said.
Millington learned about the internship through Queens University, where he studies communications. He and five other Queens students were the first group to intern at the studio.
On his first day, Millington expected to watch the show before he had to go through the motions himself.
“Nope, they threw me in and I had to get on a mic and help tell funny jokes while they did bingo,” he said.
Shepherd said the internship lets students work in a studio similar to their possible careers after graduation.
Seacrest Studios has state-of-the-art equipment for the interns to use that surpasses the level of equipment some professional studios use, Millington said.
Millington is heading into his senior year at Queens in the fall and plans to pursue radio and TV broadcasting after college. He said he wants to stay involved in the studio, following Shepherd’s example.
“I’ve gotten past the point where it counts as college credit,” he said, “so I’m just here because I love it and to help kids in the hospital.”
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