'Trolls' stars surprise the kids of a COVID-19 first responder far from home

While their mom is in New York "defeating COVID," we tried to put some sunshine in the Kelly kids' pockets.

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By Allison Slater Tate

For our special series "With You TODAY," Hoda Kotb surprised four young siblings with the hopes of putting a little sunshine in their pockets while their mom works hard as a first responder on the front lines of COVID-19 far away.

As New York City continues its battle against the novel coronavirus outbreak, hundreds of volunteer health care workers have traveled to the city to help.

One of them — emergency room nurse Stacie Kelly — not only selflessly volunteered to go to New York to work 15-hour shifts in hospitals all over the city, but also to make the tough decision to leave her four children at home in Gardner, Kansas, with husband Mark.

Though Kelly is keeping in touch with her family through daily iPhone videos, the distance is taking a toll on everyone. So while their mom is off being a hero in New York, TODAY wanted to do something special for Sullivan, 10, Delaynie, 8, McClain, 6, and Camryn, 4.

Hoda greeted the kids in their Kansas home live from our studio. "I know your dad is there. Where's your mom?" she asked.

"She's in New York defeating COVID!" they answered.

"Well, I got to tell you your mom is doing amazing work, going hospital to hospital helping people. Why does your Mom like helping people?" Hoda asked.

"Because she doesn't want any people to die," answered Kelly's oldest son, Sullivan.

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With that, Hoda began the big surprise. Noting that she heard the Kelly kids are fans of the movie "Trolls," Hoda introduced "Trolls" star Justin Timberlake to the kids, whose mouths promptly fell open with shock.

"I heard there's some 'Mario Kart' being played over there," Timberlake said, noting that he plays the game with his own 5-year-old son at home.

But that wasn't all. Timberlake's co-star Anna Kendrick, who voiced the character of "Poppy" in the movie, popped up too.

"HI POPPY!" yelled Kelly's young daughter — a recognition that brought tears to Kendrick's eyes.

"Are you guys so proud of your mom?" Kendrick asked. "You must think she's the best mom in the world!"

"Yes!" the kids answered.

"She's my hero for sure," said Timberlake.

After establishing that 4-year-old Camryn loves Kendrick's character "Poppy" more than Timberlake's "Branch," the kids said goodbye to their new friends.

"You guys are such an amazing family, and you must be so proud of your mom," said Kendrick. "And we're really grateful to her. And really grateful to you, Dad, for holding down the fort with those four little angels. I am sure they give you no trouble and do everything you ask them to do!"

Timberlake's hat was off to the father of four as well. "Mark, I only have one 5-year-old, and it's hard to get him to sleep, so you're my other hero, bro!" he said.

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After the surprise, Mark texted the show to let us know the kids' reactions. "Delaynie started crying because she was so happy. Sullivan was in shock. Camryn was dancing, and McClain claimed he had much more to say!"

Thank you to the whole Kelly family — especially to Stacie Kelly, who is out there so far from home working hard on the front lines right now.

"Trolls World Tour" is available on demand starting today.

Disclosure: Universal Pictures shares the same parent company with TODAY.