If there is one common denominator in all the people I have interviewed over the years it is their humility. People who give their lives and talents to serve others do not want the attention on themselves ever. These incredible humans will lovingly talk about the work they do but do not want the attention on them. It doesn’t matter who they are. Whether they are from a famous family or used to being in the media, these modern-day heroes consistently do not want the spotlight.
Today’s guest, Meredith Seacrest Leach is no exception. Meredith is the Executive Director of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. And yes, she is Ryan Seacrest’s sister. I’m excited to share our inspiring conversation about their families’ journey in service and the incredible way they are using their gifts to help eleven children’s hospitals and thousands of children and families across the country.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Ryan Seacrest Foundation does and how it all started?
Meredith Seacrest Leach: Just over 10 years ago, Ryan would do a lot of visits to children’s hospitals through his various jobs. In particular, the radio show, where he would take his team down there and they’d set up at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, in California. They would bring in some special guests and broadcast live and he got so much feedback from families about the energy this brought to the hospital.
There was one visit that we were at the hospital and there was a little girl who hadn’t gotten out of bed in 72 days. But she got out of bed to be part of this broadcast and got to meet Selena Gomez. And it just moved all of us and the nurses had tears in their eyes. The power of creating this excitement in the hospital inspired this little girl to get out of bed.
I know you’ve talked about this in your podcasts, that there’s this moment, and what is that moment that kind of triggers an idea of wanting to create something or do more? So after that moment, we road back in the car together, and Ryan just said, “What can we do that could live in the Children’s Hospital? I can’t broadcast every day. I’d love to but you know, I can’t. But what could we create and do that could live in the hospital, to create this synergy?”
We sat down as a family and kind of talked about it. My brother reached a point that while he loved supporting other causes that he would love to create some into his own. We really talked about rather than reinvent the wheel. He needed to do what he is good at, which is radio and television.
So, we decided through the relationships we have to kind of replicate his radio studio as well as folding some technical side for television. That evolved into what we now call Seacrest Studios. We decided to build the first one at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, our hometown, where we were raised and born. And we really started with that first hospital and had a conversation with them about the idea. They took a chance to see you know what this would be and it evolved from there
Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Meredith Seacrest Leach: We have parents just say, “You know, my child smiled today or laughed.” It feels like such a small thing but if that space we create can bring that joy or that moment for a family or create some sense of relief. That’s when we feel while we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?
Meredith Seacrest Leach: I had worked in the entertainment business before moving into the nonprofit space. I think knowing that each day, what we do is really helping someone, I’m not just going to work. But this really has meaning and to be able to say that your job, if you want to call it a job, but your passion is really helping people and you get these stories back.
The fact that we can be that connective tissue to bring, not only the Seacrest Studios to the hospital, but also bring in different opportunities, whether it’s entertainment or educational experiences, fun toys for the kids. It is just so important. I just realized that every day that I’m lucky to do what I do and have the ability to do it.
Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?
Meredith Seacrest Leach: Well, I definitely have learned that you never stop learning. I’m continuously learning as we go. One thing I think that this was something you could truly make decisions on what your heart wants to do. This was what feels right and this is the way we’re going to move this.
Listening to that kind of inner voice of what felt right to do, actually led us in a way to build something special. We felt it unitedly as a family. We really just listened to our hearts about what we wanted to build and how we wanted to help. I think it led us in a great direction.
Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?
Meredith Seacrest Leach: Now that I’ve worked in children’s hospitals quite a bit with working with 11, and visiting, even more, it definitely changes you. I think I have a lot of perspective, more than I ever had before. I know it sounds so cliche, but health is wealth. Just to be so grateful, for what I do have and not focusing on what I don’t have. Seeing some of these families and what they’re going through, is hard.
Some of these young people have such a perspective on life. I think it just really keeps me in check of what is important in life. Trying to focus on that and be present in all the positive things.
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