The FAQs

1. What is Make Room for Kids?

Make Room for Kids began as a social media-driven fundraising effort designed to bring gaming to sick children at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and is now an official extension of the Austin’s Playroom Project at the Mario Lemieux Foundation. It was named by my butler Mike Woycheck‘s wife Meg, because she is super smart.  If I need to tell you who Mario Lemieux is, then I don’t think we can be friends.

2.  How did Make Room for Kids begin?

You can read the very very early tadpole stages of Make Room for Kids in #2 of this Random n’at post.  Children’s Miracle Network partnered with Microsoft to award a $10,000 game room to the three hospitals that earned the most votes in an online contest.  I encouraged my readers to vote because I really really really wanted our hospital to win.  However, the voting became so slow and tedious due to site issues that I eventually told readers, who were trying to vote their little hearts out, to relax and stop voting.  We’d find a way to give the kids a game room without the contest.

3.  Why gaming?

Short answer, Genre Baker.  Long answer, when I first made the decision to reveal my identity, my butler Mike and I began planning a charity reveal via a party at Diesel.  The goal was to raise $5,000 for a local charity, but I wasn’t sure which charity I wanted to raise it for.  I considered the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation, but I wondered if there was a more direct way I could help sick kids.  Then the next day at church there was an announcement that a boy named Genre Baker, a church member, was fighting leukemia and in doing so was raising money because he wanted to be able to give the gift of gaming to other patients that didn’t have a hand-held gaming system like he had to pass the hours in the hospital.

I ended up nixing the fundraiser idea because it got too big and I got scared because I’m little old me, and I’m a writer.  I should use my words to reveal myself.  And I did. But combining what I had learned about Genre Baker and gaming, with the contest to bring a gaming room to Children’s Hospital, it felt like I found a way to use what little bit of notoriety I have to do some good for our local sick kids.

But short answer, Genre Baker.

4.  How much money did you raise?

After round III which will roll out in 2012, we will have raised over $86,000 from my readers, Microsoft employees and corporate matches, and other generous donations.

5.  I like the MR4K logo.

That’s not a question.

6.  Who designed the MR4K logo?

There we go.  The Make Room for Kids logo was designed by the beautiful and talented Rachel Sager of The Sum of David fame, who also designed my blog’s banner.  She’s super kickass [rocker kick].

7.  So, what happened to the room?

This post really sums it up, but what happened was the hospital approached us and said that basically they have enough common rooms; what they don’t have is in-room gaming for the kids who can’t always leave their rooms, particularly those kids who have long hospital stays ahead of them. So instead of one room, we made 24 rooms for the transplant kids by using the funds to outfit the floor with XBOXs in every room, ToughBook laptops, handheld gaming devices, movies, games and more! [rocker kick!]

You can read about the install day at Children’s Hospital here or you can watch this video and shed a happy tear:

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We then finished up the project by delivering $12,000 worth of laptops, gaming systems, games, iPads and more.

Then in 2011, we outfitted the Frequent Fliers ward at the hospital delivering almost $15,000 worth of goodies. You can read about that here.

8.  So, how about those Microsoft guys?

YOU ARE NOT EVEN JOKING.  Those guys.  Facilitated by Microsoft employee Luke Sossi, the local Microsoft office of 30 employees donated enough money that we were able to outfit every room of the transplant ward and the frequent fliers ward with an XBOX and extra controllers without having to spend a cent of the money raised, allowing us to use that to purchase games, laptops, televisions, DVD players, and lots and lots of iPads. 2012 will bring us the 100th XBOX donated by Microsoft.

9. Why the Mario Lemieux Foundation?

Well, hello!?  It’s Mario Freaking Lemieux, the President of Pittsburgh, and that fit nicely into my efforts to stalk him.  Also, we needed a nonprofit to handle the funds and reader Sooska informed me that Mario and Nathalie Lemieux’s foundation has an Austin’s Playroom Project initiative that seemed to fit well with what we were trying to do.  Executive Director Nancy Angus was immediately on board and Make Room for Kids and the Mario Lemieux Foundation became BFFs like salad and french fries. (It’s a Pittsburgh thing.)

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].

11.  What now?

Make Room for Kids belongs to the Mario Lemieux Foundation where it has grown and thrived beyond my wildest dreams. Donations are still vital to ensure the program continues to reach its goals each year to outfit more and more hospital rooms with gaming.

13.  Burghers are awesome people.

Also not a question.

14.  Aren’t Burghers awesome people?

That’s church.