A really really really good day

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Last Friday at 9:00 a.m., Make Room for Kids, an initiative of the Mario Lemieux Foundation supported by Microsoft and ALL OF YOU, arrived at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with the goal to provide a multimedia makeover for the CICU unit, the Cardiac Step Down unit, and the Trauma/Ortho unit. In addition, we delivered boxes of new games, movies, and other goodies to every unit we overhauled in years past … transplant, adolescent medicine, and oncology. Our most ambitious install day ever.

The morning kicked off when the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Microsoft arrived with SUVs full of good stuff for the kids.

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That’s a lot of loot!

Me and MLF’s Nancy Angus being adorable and staying out of the way adorably. Adorable.

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Briefing by Microsoft’s Luke Sossi, the planning and logistics mastermind who ensures the operation runs smoothly and who also ran the fundraising campaign at Microsoft, encouraging employees to donate to the program:

IMG_0699Child Life Specialist Beth Moneck talks about how important the gaming will be to the patients and also prepares the installers for what they might encounter in the CICU rooms:

IMG_0707Nancy Angus thanks everyone for their time and donations to the program. There in the background is Frank. He’s the person at the hospital responsible for making sure each room is ready for an XBOX install — a process that starts way back in the fall:

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And they’re off! Three floors to hit, 4, 6, and 8.

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The first XBOX is installed in the waiting area of the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) as the families and siblings of patients often have long waits here considering surgeries can happen at any time in the CICU rooms.

IMG_0714All done!

IMG_0721The CICU is just … well … heartbreaking. You can’t fathom what these kids and their families are suffering through, and your donations are going a long way to make their stay a little bit better.

Hannah is 11 and if her room is any indication, she loves pink and black.  She’s here for surgeries while awaiting a heart transplant. As the install was taking place, she sat on her bed holding a copy of Plants versus Zombies, which just happened to be the game she was handed while they installed her XBOX. She was quiet and I said, “Did you want a different game to play maybe?”

She shyly nodded her head as if she felt badly for asking and I’m thinking, “Girl. You’re 11. You’re waiting for a new heart. You can have anything you damn well want. BRB.”

So we hooked her up with Angry Birds and this was her reaction:

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Here’s another young patient who was happy to get started with the new XBOX in her room:

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Room by room. 38 XBOXes. High-risk rooms meant taking important precautions:

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Other rooms didn’t require such precautions:

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IMG_0731Here’s the whole install team:

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Each child received an XBOX installed in their room, a controller, a game to get started with, a Microsoft hat, lanyard, and keychain with a tiny controller replica on it:

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And that’s not all! We also delivered, thanks to your donations:

– Over 100 XBOX games

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– Over 150 movies. I insisted that every unit received a copy of Frozen because DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A SNOWMAN OKAY BYEEeee. Shut up.

IMG_0767– Tons of scrapbooking stuff, because as I’ve mentioned in the past, scrapbooking is not only a great distraction, but a good way for kids to address their fears. We included cameras, photo printers, memory cards, tons of cool papers, and lots more.

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– Eight Surface units! We gave four to the CICU/Cardiac Step Down unit and two to the transplant unit and two to the adolescent medicine unit. Each was delivered with a keyboard and protective sleeve. Good for gaming and surfing the web.

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IMG_0740– And check out these sweet Tomb Raider-themed controllers. Microsoft brought 38 of these so that the units have some extras to allow patients to play with family members or others:

IMG_0751– Your donations allowed us to give each unit from previous years a box full of goodies as well as a few extra controllers. They received new games, new movies, and more. The transplant unit was provided with two new LeapPads as well as LeapPad games for their younger patients. And they all got Frozen. LET IT GOOOO. LET IT GOOO-OOOOO! Shut up.

– This install brings us to over 150 XBOX units installed and over $125,000 in total donations to Make Room for Kids since its inception. We have outfitted at Children’s Hospital, the transplant unit, the adolescent medicine/”Frequent Fliers” unit, the oncology unit, the oncology transfusion unit, the CICU, the Cardiac Step Down unit, the trauma/ortho unit, as well as the pediatric unit at Allegheny General, and the entirety of The Children’s Home. Wow.

Near the end of the morning, as things were wrapping up, Beth from Child Life told us that one patient who had received the XBOX earlier in the morning had been getting her clothing changed and would not put down the controller to stop playing her game. She just held on and kept her eyes on the TV while her clothing was swapped.

That’s the goal. Distraction. Don’t worry. Just play. 

It was so good to hear from Child Life at each unit about how the gaming has helped them and their patients over the last few years. I promise you, it is making a difference for these kids. So I can’t thank you enough for donating each year to help us make that happen for them.

I also must give mad love and props to ROOT Sports for featuring the install during the Pens pre-game show yesterday, to the Post-Gazette for featuring it on the front page of Saturday’s paper, and to Mike Young at EA Sports for hooking the kids up with some awesome games like NHL 14 and Madden 25.

It was a fantastic day and a huge success thanks to Microsoft, the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and you.

Group hug!





7 Comments

  1. Allicia
    April 14, 2014 12:41 pm

    This is awesome! So glad that I got to contribute a very small part to this awesomely good deed!



  2. jann
    April 14, 2014 7:10 pm

    Thanks to YOU, Virgina, for arranging all of this. Thanks, too, for the pictures and play – by -play. Almost like being there…



  3. Gary and Susan Winkler
    April 14, 2014 8:36 pm

    Glad we could help.



  4. AmyLK
    April 16, 2014 9:41 am

    That is FABULOUS! Congrats to you and your angels who donated, delivered and installed.



  5. Sue
    April 16, 2014 2:42 pm

    Awesome! Congratulations to everyone involved!!!



  6. Joanie
    April 16, 2014 3:17 pm

    Makes me feel all warm inside. :-) Glad to have helped….even just a little bit.



  7. Tony
    April 22, 2014 10:54 pm

    Thanks to all that contributed to this latest install – my wife Barb and I volunteer at Children’s and we get to see first hand how much the gaming and movies help not only the patients but the families as well. Keep up the great work!!!!!




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