The President and First Lady … of Pittsburgh

In addition to helping SICK KIDS, the great thing about being associated with the Mario Lemieux Foundation — aside from stealing random tchotchkes that I’m sure the staff won’t miss and aside from getting to lay my hands on the Mario/Sid Civic Arena locker room bench — is getting a sneak peak at the amazing projects his foundation is working on.

One of those projects that I’ve been hearing about for a while now was Austin’s Warrior Playroom at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which is the hospital where armed services men and women with injuries and illnesses enter for treatment, regardless of the branch of the military.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation is helping in a big way — a 2,000 square foot way and BOOM! There they are on the official White House blog!

The 2,000 sq. ft. playroom will accommodate children from six weeks up to 12 years. The room is equipped with the newest toys and games including video gaming systems, creative and imaginative play areas and an interactive kiosk.  From our personal experience, this room will give children a space to call their own while parents attend to medical needs, but will also allow them to remain together as a family.  We believe providing an environment that is cheerful, safe and comfortable for children and patients is an essential complement to medical treatment when addressing the quality of a child and families’ hospital experience.

When we began Austin’s Playroom Project in 2000 as an initiative of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, I never dreamed it would grow so large.  Our son, Austin, was born profoundly pre-mature at Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and with two young daughters, it was difficult to manage our time together.  It was then that we dreamed of someday helping future families who find themselves in similar situations.  Since that time, we have established 22 playrooms throughout western Pennsylvania, with six more scheduled to open by the end of 2012.

Austin’s Warrior Playroom marks a new initiative in the Austin’s Playroom Project.  The Mario Lemieux Foundation is proud to join forces with the US military to establish an Austin’s Playroom in the new Medical Center to bring joy and happiness in what otherwise will be a very difficult and stressful situation.  We hope this playroom provides comfort, warmth and love for these very special families.

The official opening of the playroom is tomorrow and Mario and Nathalie Lemieux will be on hand to open it up.

This is a big deal.

This is the President and First Lady of Pittsburgh helping military families through tough times. This is them stepping outside of the Burgh and spreading the good work of the foundation to other parts of the country. This is the generosity and good neighborly-ness of Burghers being evangelized in a monumental manner.

Group hug!

And high-five to the Mario Lemieux Foundation

I wonder if they’ll have any White House tchotchkes laying around the office now.



  1. Christina
    September 7, 2011 9:17 am

    Awesome. Opening is tomorrow? Sounds like a good day to wear my Mario Lemieux Foundation t-shirt then :)

  2. USCMike
    September 7, 2011 9:30 am

    I just hope the national press picks this up and gives the Lemieux Foundation some serious coverage for this awesome project.

    There’s a lot of good news that they never seem to cover and providing a playroom at the new Walter Reed is certainly a stellar bit of it!!

    Kudos to all involved in this project – now let’s get to work on doing the same at other military hospitals!!

  3. lisa
    September 7, 2011 9:31 am

    I love being able to say I am from the Burgh. Really

  4. WVgary
    September 7, 2011 9:42 pm

    I also hope the Lemieux Foundation gets some national press for this. My wife and daughter got me a Lemieux Foundation license plate for my birthday. (I gave them a few hints!) I had never put any bumper stickers or anything that draws attention on my car before but the Lemieux Foundation plate is something I am proud to display.