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Around the Dial

Out of the Blue, Star 98.7 Links Kids With Computers

A phone call from a Reseda mom during the station's drive-time show spawns a spate of donations.


Cindy Torres--longtime listener, first-time caller--said she was at her wits' end this week and simply didn't know where else to turn when she picked up the phone and dialed KYSR-FM (Star 98.7) to talk about her woes.

She'd had a disaster at her Reseda home--a flooded kitchen--and the money she was saving for a computer for her kids would now be spent repairing the damage. She swallowed her pride and dialed, hoping that maybe someone could help.

"I was just hoping somebody could lead me to a discounted one," said Torres, an office manager. "It was killing me that I was going to have to break a promise to my kids."

What ended up happening is one of those rare reminders that L.A. sometimes finds unusual ways to create a sense of community. Torres got a computer for her four sons, donated by a listener, a respiratory therapist from Anaheim who said she could relate to the difficulties Torres was having and understood, as a parent herself, what pressures people face to give their kids a technological leg up.


On-air hosts Ryan Seacrest and Lisa Foxx were getting so many calls about Torres' impassioned plea that they kept the giving going, matching up more than a dozen people who needed computers with those willing to give. It ended up spreading over more than three days, both on and off the air.

The afternoon drive-time show "Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home With Lisa Foxx," 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays, is known for its light banter, celebrity interviews, traffic reports and pop tunes. It's not necessarily the place to expect to hear callers talking about their troubles--or listeners responding.

"It really happened organically," said Seacrest, who's been at the station for three years. "It shows the spontaneity of this medium."

The show's producer, Amy Sugarman, along with Seacrest and Foxx, decided quickly on Monday that the giving should be directed at callers with kids, who often need to use computers and the Internet for schoolwork.

"With the evolution of technology, kids really need to be computer-savvy," Seacrest said. "We wanted to keep this focused on helping kids with their education."


Several of the matches were made on-air, so that the person donating could speak directly to the person he or she was helping, making for some emotional moments. Torres burst into tears and could barely speak to her "angel of mercy," as she later dubbed her giver.

"I was just so grateful," Torres said the next day. "She answered my prayers."

Ken Newton, a first-grade teacher in Canyon Country who has had Seacrest in his classroom to read to his students, was listening on Monday afternoon when Torres called.

He, too, was moved and called to donate his two 3-year-old Macs and a new $150 printer. He had upgraded his system and no longer needed the equipment. His class, in the Sulphur Springs district in Santa Clarita, already had more than enough computers to go around. Newton was hooked up with a 9-year-old boy from Huntington Beach who called to say that he and his older brothers had been going to a friend's house, or to school early in the morning, to use a computer for their homework. Their single mom wasn't able to buy them one of their own.

"My heart goes out to parents who can't afford to give their kids what they need to keep up with the times," Newton said. "Anything for a kid who wants to learn." Newton said he plans to deliver the computers this weekend. "It's the best feeling in the world to know I was helping that family."

Sugarman said people called, e-mailed and faxed in gifts ranging from free Internet service to free repairs and tech support. Executives from a Toyota dealership in Westminster said they didn't have any used computers that would be suitable for donating, so they offered to buy three new ones to be doled out to listeners by the station.

"It's such a powerful medium to help people," Sugarman said. "And it's so immediate."

Torres said she was overwhelmed at getting a computer herself and gratified that others did, too.

"It really touched me that so many people were willing to give," she said. "It was really hard for me to make that call, but I'm so happy that other people are benefiting, too."

* "Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home With Lisa Foxx" can be heard weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on KYSR-FM (98.7).

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