PITTSBURGH — January 31, 2014 — The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at the new Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Camp Pendleton, CA. The playroom will serve the more than 75,000 active duty Marines and their families, as well as wounded warriors, veterans and their families in the San Diego area.
Mario Lemieux, NHL Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Penguins owner, and his wife, Nathalie, were on hand and participated in the dedication ceremony. “I am so pleased to open this new military playroom at the new Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “This is our second military playroom, and a great honor to be here at Camp Pendleton. Like our first military playroom, it is my hope that this playroom provides the necessary healing and happiness for these very special military families.”
The Lemieux’s were joined by Rear Admiral C. Forest Faison III, Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy and Captain Mark A. Kobelja, MC, USN, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.
The playroom was built from donations from private individuals and corporations and will be the second playroom established by the Lemieux Foundation on a military installation. This is the 29th Austin’s Playroom opened, with an additional five rooms to be completed by the end of the year. The first military playroom was built at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, in Tranquility Hall.
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 playrooms are created to give kids a chance to be kids during an otherwise stressful time. They also allow families the ability to escape the burden of difficult or extended medical situations and focus on health and healing. As the project grew, Mario and Nathalie recognized how playrooms could also benefit the children of our military families. Nathalie Lemieux serves as Chair of Austin’s Playroom Project, and each room is called Austin’s Playroom
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. Mario Lemieux is Chairman of the Mario Lemieux Foundation.