PITTSBURGH — November 5, 2014 — The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at Jefferson Hospital in the newly constructed Women and Infants Center.  The playroom will serve thousands of residents in Pittsburgh’s southern region in one of the country’s only state-of-the-art NEW units –  offering comprehensive labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum (LDRP) suites.

Austin Lemieux was on hand for the celebration and was joined by Tom Grealish, President of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Nancy Angus, Executive Director.  “We are so pleased to open the 31th Austin’s Playroom.” said Nancy Angus. “Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, and we are excited to bring Austin’s Playroom to Pittsburgh’s South Hills.”

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 Jefferson Hospital Austin’s Playroom was established by a grant from the Allegheny County Economic Development – Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund (CITF).  The grant request was supported by State Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) of the 37th district.  “Austin’s Playroom quickly becomes a vital part of each hospital, filling an important need for families with young children,” said Smith.  “As a father, I understand that a resource like Austin’s Playroom can be a comforting space and brings a sense of normalcy to an otherwise challenging situation for young children. I’m proud to support this initiative.”  “We are honored to have the friendship and support of Senator Matt Smith,” said Tom Grealish, President of the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

Each Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics, an aquarium and child-friendly artwork.  Austin’s Playroom was uniquely and personally designed by Nathalie Lemieux and features a train table, wall-mounted games, sand table, and large screen TV, inside a brightly painted room.  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.