Make Room for Kids 2014



Transplant kids. Cancer kids. “Frequent Fliers.” The pediatric unit at AGH. And the entirety of The Children’s Home.

That’s how many sick children the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Make Room for Kids program in partnership with regional Microsoft employees, has brought gaming and diversions to over the last four years.

Today we’re launching a new campaign in the hopes of raising the funds needed to bring distractions to three additional units within Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.


(You can click here if you are unfamiliar with the origins of Make Room for Kids and to learn about how it eventually came to live at the Mario Lemieux Foundation. Hiya, Mario. I love you. Will you marry me?)


1. The Trauma/Ortho Unit

  • This 24-bed unit houses children of all ages who have experienced trauma related to car accidents, bike accidents, sledding accidents and more. Oftentimes, children who are in car accidents are treated in this unit at Children’s while their parents are treated at another hospital. That can be very frightening for a child.
  • Kids with liver or spleen lacerations are required to lie flat for days at a time.
  • The Ortho aspect of this unit is heartbreaking. Here’s where you’ll find the Spina Bifida kids and the scoliosis kids, many of whom have undergone spinal fusions. THEY MAY BE IN THE HOSPITAL FOR THIRTY DAYS OR MORE.  They are immobile for five to seven days post-op and cannot get to the common play areas.
  • Kids in this unit often have catheters which also prohibit their movement out of their rooms.
  • Kids that have an external drain following surgeries cannot move for ten days. TEN DAYS they must be immobile. Have you ever tried keeping a five-year-old still for ten MINUTES? Try entertaining them for ten DAYS while keeping them perfectly still.  Did I just break your heart? They are allowed to game though, provided they remain still on their backs.
  • This unit currently has no in-room gaming other than a shared Wii that is wheeled from room to room.
  • That won’t do.

2. The Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU)

  • This ICU is a 12-bed unit housing those children undergoing or awaiting heart surgeries and heart transplants.
  • This is also where you’ll find those children being treated with artificial hearts. Artificial hearts. Artificial. Hearts. Your child. With an artificial heart. Go ahead. Process that in your brain. You can’t.
  • The average stay in this unit? ONE HUNDRED DAYS. Can you imagine how antsy you’d be in the hospital after three days? Six days? ONE HUNDRED DAYS? Sick kids are the strongest.
  • Patients in this unit are often confined to their rooms because it is an ICU. This CICU unit is always surgery ready, meaning surgeries can happen right in the patient’s rooms if need be.
  • These children share two wheeled Wii stations. That’s it.
  • That won’t do.

david mucha 3

 (This is David. He is a patient of the CICU. He would love some gaming.)

3. BONUS UNIT: Cardiac Acute Care unit. (CAC)

  • All CICU patients are transferred to this unit before discharge. This is also where you’ll find children waiting for heart transplants. When we were touring the unit, we were told there were currently three children in the unit waiting for heart transplants. Your kid. Waiting for a new heart. I’ll sit here for ten thousand years while you try to process it. You can’t.
  • When undergoing cardiac cath labs (pretend I’m a doctor who knows what that means. It was in my notes.) patients in this unit must lay flat and not move for six hours. SIX HOURS. Lay still, kiddo full of zoom and defiant life. Good luck.
  • There is no gaming available to this unit at this time. We would like to raise the funds to outfit it as well so that patients in the CICU aren’t going from having gaming and distractions to not having those important things when they’re transferred to this unit.

This is ambitious.

We’ve got Microsoft on board once again as our partner. Their local employees have generously donated, and Microsoft corporate has matched, enough funds that we’re pretty set on XBOXs for all three units, as they have done in each of the years past. If things go according to plan, this year will see the install of the 150th donated XBOX via Make Room for Kids.

But we need lots more money to cover a great deal of other items not limited to:

— Dozens and dozens and DOZENS of XBOX games and DVD movies.

— Peripherals such as security cables, XBOX mounts, cords, and more. These really add up. Trust me.

— Controllers and extra controllers so that children can play against family members as well, and to replace controllers that invariably get lost or broken.

— Additional requested distractions such as Cricut scrapbooking machines with all the fixings including paper, photo printers, cameras and more. (One thing we’ve learned over the last few years is how therapeutic scrapbooking is to sick children. It’s more than a distraction. It’s something that helps them process the emotions of their illness. We want to support that. When we tell the Child Life Specialists that scrapbooking equipment is one of the things we can provide, their faces light up. None of these units has any scrapbooking equipment at this time. Say it with me … that won’t do.

— XBOX Live points to install a ton of games on any machines we place in common areas

— Surface tablets or other Microsoft equipment as requested by each unit

— Leapster handheld gaming devices and lots and lots of games, for the smaller patients.

— Bunches of USB drives so kids in the CICU can take their saved games with them up to the CAC unit. It would suck to be winning at Madden only to be told you couldn’t finish the game and had to move to a unit where you would have zero gaming. That won’t do.


Each of these three units has provided the Mario Lemieux Foundation with a “Wish List” of things they’d love to have or that their kids have requested now that they know gaming is coming. Our goal is to fulfill those wish lists completely.

I’m seeking $10,000 to add to the MR4K coffers over at the Mario Lemieux Foundation because in addition to all of the above, we don’t want to forget about the cancer kids and the transplant kids and the frequent fliers and the kids at AGH and the kids and families at the Children’s Home.

We want to replace lost or broken controllers when needed. We want to give them the latest games, the newest Madden, NHL 14, new Disney games, the latest movies. We want to replace broken XBOXs when needed. That takes a nice pool of funds too. Make Room for Kids was never meant to be, “Here you go. Have fun and have a nice life. Hope nothing breaks and you don’t ever want a new game.”

It is meant to be, “Here you go. Have fun. LET US KNOW IF YOU NEED ANYTHING AT ALL. We’ll be here, kiddos.” So we’ve asked those units to let us know what they need from us this year. We’d like to fulfill their Wish Lists too.

We need $10,000, which is only about 1/3 of what this phase of Make Room for Kids is going to cost. Our partners at Microsoft and other donors are covering the rest.

Can you please help? Spread the word. Get your friends to donate. Every little bit helps. I don’t need to remind you of how poor I was in 2010 and 2011 that I could only donate $5 to causes, and even that hurt sometimes. I get it. I really really really REALLY do. There is no judgment. Ever.

There’s the thermometer up there. Click it or when you’re ready, just click RIGHT HERE, and you’ll be donating DIRECTLY into the Mario Lemieux Foundation Make Room for Kids 2014 PayPal account.

Let’s get this done for our local sick kids so that come April, I can share with you their smiles and love as they see all the amazing things you’ve donated to make sure their time at Children’s Hospital provided them with options for relief from fear and worry.

Group hug.


  1. Megan
    February 10, 2014 7:58 am

    Will there be an wish list so people can buy wish list items and have them sent directly to whoever is gathering things?

  2. Virginia
    February 10, 2014 8:08 am

    Yes, Megan. We’ll use the Amazon Wish List if needed once the $10,000 is raised. Thanks so much!

  3. Steve
    February 10, 2014 2:24 pm

    Child’s Play is another great charity that provides games to sick kids. Their site is worth a visit. The real world feedback from these efforts is amazing. Real, clinical improvement comes as a result many times just from the distraction of a game. Less pain medicine is needed. Patient complaints drop.

    • Virginia
      February 10, 2014 2:57 pm

      From my MR4K FAQ page:

      10. Have you heard of Child’s Play?
      Yes. They were the first organization I approached. But I’m so happy we ended up working with a local foundation. It all worked out just the way it should have [calibrates Stalk-o-Meter].

      :) They are a fantastic organization, for sure, though.