The Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens New Austin’s Playroom at Children’s North

 PITTSBURGH, Jan. 18, 2018 Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at Children’s North, the hospital’s ambulatory and surgical care center located in Wexford. 

The playroom will serve to distract patients and ease anxiety as they await surgery.

Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation and chair, Austin’s Playrooms; George Gittes, M.D., Benjamin R. Fisher chair of pediatric surgery and surgeon-in-chief, Children’s Hospital; Jennifer Dickman, director, Surgery Center, Children’s North; Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation; and special invited guests officially opened the space. 

“We are so pleased to open the 35th Austin’s Playroom,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “Our goal is to reach as many children and families as possible, and we are excited to bring an Austin’s Playroom to children having outpatient surgery at Children’s North.”

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.

“Having to undergo surgery can be a scary process for a patient and their family and the stress of waiting can make it even more so,” said Gittes. “Having an Austin’s Playroom here will ensure that patients and families have a bright and comfortable place to relax and play. This addition will enable us to improve the patient experience, offering a form of distraction that reduces anxiety while waiting for surgery.”

On average, there are 8,000 patients that visit Children’s North surgery center annually.

Each Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics and child-friendly artwork. Nathalie Lemieux uniquely and personally designs each playroom, which features a train table, wall-mounted games, large screen TV and much more, inside a brightly painted room.

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About Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

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 10th among children’s hospitals and schools of medicine (FY 2016) in funding for pediatric research provided by the National Institutes of Health, and is one of 10 pediatric hospitals in the United States named to the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of America’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” for 2017-2018.

About the Mario Lemieux Foundation

The Mario Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playrooms, an initiative that creates playrooms for children and families in medical facilities. Since 1998, the Lemieux Foundation has given over $25 million to cancer research and patient care initiatives in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Recent projects include a $2.5M gift in 2014 to establish the Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and a $3.5M gift to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute to open the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the Hillman Cancer Center in 2012. Additionally, the Foundation has opened 32 Austin’s Playrooms in Western Pennsylvania as well as three military playrooms at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Camp Pendleton, CA and Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC. More information about the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Austin’s Playrooms is available at mariolemieux.org.