PITTSBURGH, PA — July 6, 2016 – Cuddles for Kids made a donation of 660 toys to the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Austin’s Playroom Project at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in honor of Pen’s TV Hostess and Austin’s Playroom volunteer; Celina Pompeani.
“This has been a goal of mine to donate to the Austin’s Playroom Project after seeing firsthand what the playrooms offer for kids while they are in the hospital,” said Conner Hagins; Founder of Cuddles for Kids. “Celina donates so much of her time to charities in the Greater Pittsburgh area and I am blessed to have her support for Cuddles for Kids. What better way to thank her than to donate to a cause that means so much to her,” Hagins continued.
“We are thrilled to accept this donation from Connor on Celina Pompeani’s behalf,” said Nancy Angus, Executive Director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation. “Gifts like these help keep our Austin’s Playrooms freshly stocked with toys for the patients at Children’s. What a generous gesture.”
“We are always amazed at the continuous drive that young adults such as Conner have to support our patients and families at Children’s Hospital,” said Ken Rudek, manager of the Child Life Department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “His donation will greatly benefit the patients here and will make their hospital stay as comforting as possible.”
The donation was made possible through Cuddles for Kids, a charity started 10 years ago by Conner Hagins of Johnstown, PA. Conner is now a sophomore at La Roche College and a member of the soccer team. He has delivered donations for years to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Cuddles for Kids has donated over 106,000 (valued at over $400,000) toys, coloring books and stuffed animals to children’s agencies throughout the state of Pennsylvania and the world. Additionally, Cuddles for Kids has issued over $16,000 in grants to agencies and projects benefiting children. For his efforts, Conner was named the 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community High School Volunteer for Pennsylvania. He is also a multiple recipient of the President of the United States Volunteer Service Award.
Austin’s Playroom Project was 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 Playroom Project.
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 Playroom Project.
Regionally, nationally, and globally, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is a leader in the treatment of childhood conditions and diseases, a pioneer in the development of new and improved therapies, and a top educator of the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists. Children’s Hospital has fulfilled this mission since its founding in 1890. Children’s is named consistently to several elite lists of pediatric hospitals, including ranking 7th among children’s hospitals and schools of medicine (FY 2014) in funding for pediatric research provided by the National Institutes of Health, and is one of 11 pediatric hospitals in the United States named to U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” for 2016-2017.