PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Sept. 19, 2017) – Allegheny Health Network’s West Penn Hospital and The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at the hospital’s NICU Step-Down/Pediatrics Unit, which serves babies and their families who are making the transition from West Penn’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to home.

Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation/Chair, Austin’s Playrooms; Nancy Angus, executive director, Mario Lemieux Foundation; Ron Andro, president and CEO, West Penn Hospital; Joseph Aracri, MD, chair, Department of Pediatrics, AHN, and special invited guests officially opened the space. West Penn is now home to two Austin’s Playrooms; the other has served NICU families for several years.

“We are so pleased to open the 34th Austin’s Playroom,” said Mrs. Lemieux. “Our goal is to reach as many children and families as possible, and we are excited to bring Austin’s Playroom to families who are preparing to take their new babies home.”

Austin’s Playrooms were established as a result of Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their infant son, Austin. In 1996, Austin was born profoundly premature and spent 71 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While they were caring for Austin, there was nothing to engage his sisters, who were both toddlers at the time. It was then Mario and Nathalie realized a need for playrooms and began their plan to establish Austin’s Playrooms.

The gift of this Austin’s Playroom, by the Mario Lemieux Foundation, was made possible by donations from The Pittsburgh Society of Investment Professionals and Seremet Family Foundation. The West Penn Hospital Foundation also supported the project with contributions from The Learmonth Fund of Pittsburgh and employees of the Hospital.

“On behalf of the staff and patients of West Penn Hospital, we are all grateful for the generosity of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and we are proud to be the site of the 34th Austin’s Playroom,” Andro said. “West Penn has been home to an Austin’s Playroom since 2008. It was an amazing gift to our patients and has been used by kids every day since.”

“As a health care professional, I have seen first-hand how these playrooms fill an important need for a hospital like West Penn, which sees so many new mothers, fathers and babies,” Dr. Aracri said. “We thank the Mario Lemieux Foundation and all of the contributors who helped make this project a reality.”

The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993 after hockey legend and NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux survived Hodgkin’s disease. The Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playrooms.