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Kids' Hospital Radio Rejects Silent Treatment

September 23, 2006|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A new Orange County radio station that hit the airwaves Friday will not be driven by ratings, but by how many smiles it brings to the faces of its most important demographic -- children with serious illnesses listening from their hospital beds.

Broadcasting from the lobby of Children's Hospital of Orange County, Radio Lollipop was an instant hit Friday morning with its live studio audience.

As television and radio personality Ryan Seacrest spun the first tune -- the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" -- wheelchair-bound kids hooked up to oxygen tanks and IV tubes tapped their feet and bobbed their heads to the beat.

The hospital-based station will air programming two nights a week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., providing interactive trivia games and music for patients in need of a spiritual and emotional boost.

The music, a blend of children's favorites and Top 40 hits, is piped into rooms throughout the hospital.

Volunteer deejays will take call-in requests from patients, and hospital volunteers will involve children in recreational activities linked to that day's programming theme. Sometimes, patients or celebrities will fill in as guest deejays.

Dallas Day of Laguna Beach said her 10-year-old son, Cody, had been looking forward to Radio Lollipop's debut for three months. "There's so much down time, and he can get so bored just lying in bed," said Day, whose son is being treated for a brain tumor. "This gives him something to look forward to and something to engage in. It also gives the kids a creative avenue. You just don't want them to go stagnant mentally."

The CHOC facility in Orange is the 24th Radio Lollipop in the world and the first on the West Coast. The start-up costs, totaling about $700,000, were paid by donations.

Hedley Finn, Radio Lollipop's president, said he thinks radio is the best medium to connect "one to one" with ill children.

"It's a tough situation for everybody," said Finn, who founded the nonprofit program. "The kids feel guilty, the siblings get jealous of all the attention the patient is getting, and the parents are bored and under stress. Interactive radio is a great way to break that cycle."

Hospital officials say that if the program continues to receive donations, they plan to expand the station's programming to seven nights a week.

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