April 17, 2013 – The Mario Lemieux Foundation opened the 28th Austin’s Playroom today at the Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, PA.

Accompanying hospital officials for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Nathalie Lemieux, wife of Mario Lemieux and chair of the Austin’s Playroom Project, and their son, Austin, for whom the playroom is named. Executive Director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Nancy Angus, also traveled from Pittsburgh for the event.

“We are honored that Nathalie Lemieux and the Lemieux Foundation selected Mount Nittany Medical Center as their latest site for an Austin’s Playroom. Austin’s Playroom Project is a wonderful and much needed service for thousands of families across several states. We cannot thank them enough for this amazing gift,” said Steve Brown, FACHE, president and CEO, Mount Nittany Health.

“Parents often have limited time visiting their hospitalized child and speaking with medical staff because they also have to manage their other children. The playroom will help solve that by providing the siblings a safe and child-focused place to occupy their time while mom or dad is with the patient. And, when our young patients are feeling better, they too, can enjoy the playroom,” said Brown.

In 2000, Nathalie Lemieux expanded the Foundation’s scope of charitable giving when she created Austin’s Playroom Project. Each Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics, an aquarium and child-friendly artwork. Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Austin’s Playroom was uniquely and personally designed by Nathalie Lemieux and features an interactive gaming kiosk, train table, wall-mounted games, and large screen TV/DVD player, inside a brightly painted room.

Austin’s Playroom Project was created from Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their profoundly premature infant son at Magee-Womens Hospital.  While caring for Austin and meeting with medical personnel at the hospital, Mario and Nathalie realized there was no comfortable, fun, engaging place for their two young daughters, both toddlers at the time, to wait for them.

It was on Nathalie’s first Mother’s Day with Austin that she developed a plan to help parents facing the same issue by raising funds for playrooms throughout western Pennsylvania and beyond. “We are so pleased to open this new playroom at Mount Nittany Medical Center,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “We are happy to play a part in helping families in the emergency department. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, and we are thrilled to bring Austin’s Playroom to State College and serve the central part of our state. Opening each and every playroom is like a dream come true.” For more information about the Mount Nittany Medical Center ED, visit www.mountnittany.org.