The dozens of young patients gathered at Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt on Friday knew they were in for a very special day.
On hand to celebrate the opening of a new state-of-the-art, multimedia broadcast studio inside the hospital – the tenth such studio the Ryan Seacrest Foundation has opened inside pediatric hospitals across the country – the kids and their parents were already excited. And then Taylor Swift showed up.
“It was thrilling to have Taylor surprise the patients, which made the day of our first broadcast at Vanderbilt even more special,” Seacrest, 41, told PEOPLE of the jubilant event launching Seacrest Studios.
“She infused so much joy into the entire hospital community.”
The 1989 pop star, 26 – whose unannounced appearance follows up her picture-perfect vacation with boyfriend Calvin Harris – joined Seacrest for the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the Nashville hospital. Then, much to the delight of the crowd, she teamed with the American Idol host inside the new 723-square-foot studio for its inaugural broadcast. At one point, Swift was treated to a performance by the children, who took home Swift swag bags and scored autographs from both the singer and Seacrest.
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“About two years ago, I was lucky enough to get to visit Ryan’s studio at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” Swift shared with the audience. “And what I saw when I went there was an opportunity for the kids to find excitement and express their creativity and learn about what it is to create content – whether you would like to make your own radio show or whether you want to record. It was so exciting to see the excitement that it brought to this one hospital. That fact that [Seacrest is] opening his tenth studio just speaks to his commitment to bettering the lives of kids who are ill, and it affects their whole family.”
After praising Vanderbilt’s efforts to assist children and noting how many Nashville artists will visit the studio, Swift added: “I’m so thankful to be here when it’s opening. And I just want to say thank you to Ryan for everything that he’s doing to help kids and to really change the hospital experience in the best way possible. So thank you for having me. Thank you so much for inviting me today. You’re amazing.”
Earlier in the day, Seacrest shared his inspiration for the project while walking the red carpet. “I wanted to do something that would take the kids minds off of what they were going through in the hospital,” he told PEOPLE. “It’s remarkable to see how when the kids are talking to some of their favorite stars, creating their own shows, doing their own interviews, they really forget some of the tough stuff that’s happening in the hospital.”
Seacrest Studios – which allows young patients to explore radio, television and new media as creative tools to help their healing process – have drawn other high-profile visiting artists, including Selena Gomez, Nick Jonas, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Usher and Britney Spears.
“Today was an incredible milestone for my family and me, and everyone involved with the foundation,” Seacrest told PEOPLE. “I’m so proud that we opened our tenth Seacrest Studios in Nashville today.”
Adds Seacrest: “I don’t think any of us can stop smiling.”
• Reporting by KATIE KAUSS