Making rooms for kids.


Last Friday, my butler Mike and I were guests of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation to tour the hospital and talk about Make Room for Kids, and I wanted to just sort of share with you why we were there, what we saw, and what we decided to do with that there $14,000 of money you gave us.

We’re going to Vegas.

I kid.

Now, I don’t want you to think that we took your money and then nothing happened.  I have been going back and forth with Mike and the Foundation for months as they worked with the hospital to determine how best to use the money to bring gaming to the children.

On our visit, they showed us Matt’s Media Room which was funded by a mother who lost her young son to cancer.

They showed us the Lemieux Sibling Center.  Toys for every age. Air hockey table, of course, above which hangs a Stanley Cup Fathead autographed by various Penguins.  A gaming section with couches, a TV, and a Wii.  I even spotted a Rock Band guitar.

Finally, they showed us Austin’s Playroom, named after Mario and Nathalie’s son.  It is a beautifully decorated, bright, sunshiny room with computers, toys, a huge fish tank, portable Wii and more.

We were standing in that playroom, talking in a circle, when a young boy, perhaps 6 or 7 years old with blond messy hair, walked through our little group of people.  He was wearing pajama pants and his hospital gown was gaping open at the back.  He was hunched over, possibly from pain, and was walking slowly. So slowly.  He hobbled through our circle and we parted to let him out the other side where he made his way to a cabinet and opened it up to reveal just about every board game you can imagine.

The conversation of our circle picked back up as the child chose his game and slowly and silently shuffled away, but, like, my heart turned around in my chest and watched this little boy, even though my back was to him as he sat down at a table to play the game.

This is how it was for about ten minutes.  I was involved in the conversation taking place before me, but there was a whole separate part of me that was completely aware of and focused on this child behind me.  I can’t explain it.  I watched him without seeing him and I just wanted to hug that little kid and every little kid I saw.

But I’ve digressed.

There were floors and rooms discussed; however, when it came down to it, the children who are the sickest and who have the most lengthy stays at Children’s are usually not able to get out of their rooms to enjoy the playrooms already established throughout the building for the more mobile, less at-risk children.

What we have decided to do is focus on bringing gaming to the sickest of the kids.  The room-confined children.  The children who sometimes have to be isolated from other patients.  The children with the longest hospital stays.

Matt’s mother did this for the oncology floor, and after speaking with the foundation staff and the hospital staff, Mike and I agreed that we thought you would like to use your money to bring gaming to the transplant floor.  Floor 7. And this being Pittsburgh, the home of Thomas Starzl, AKA The Father of Modern Transplantation, it seems appropriate.

Right now, children who have transplants at Children’s have at their disposal a TV with cable and on-demand movies.  There are a few laptops they can use, but those laptops are for the entire hospital and that means they have to wait for them to become available.  Same goes for the portable gaming.  They have to wait.  This is why Matt’s mother outfitted the oncology floor.  Matt was in the hospital for over 100 days before he died, and he was continually waiting for a Wii to become available. She didn’t want any children to ever have to wait.

I don’t either.

Transplant children have pre-transplant stays, transplant stays, and post-transplant stays.  They are isolated at times while their bodies accept their new organs.  When we were in the sibling room, the employees were wiping down each individual marker with a disinfecting wipe.  You can see how seriously they take the spread of germs in that hospital and you can see why some patients cannot take advantage of the common rooms for play.

What we are going to do is this:  Purchase a game console for every transplant room, either XBox 360s or Playstation 3s because they also play DVDs (and even Blu-Ray, in the case of the PS3) that they may have brought from home.  In addition, we will purchase 10 handheld gaming devices, likely DSs or PSPs.  We will also purchase 6 to 8 Toshiba Toughbooks for the transplant patients to use to play online games, surf the net, or check their emails.

All of this will be dedicated to the transplant floor only.  That means no more waiting and that means these children who cannot leave their beds or rooms can still enjoy some downtime gaming while they’re alone or bored.  We’ll also supply that floor with a huge pool of games for both the in-room consoles and the handhelds.  So every child who comes to the hospital for a transplant can game on their in-room TV, or on a handheld, or on a laptop that won’t break even if they drop it.

Does that sound good to you guys?

We’re still “Making Room for Kids,” we’re just making 24 rooms for specific kids. For now.  I’m thinking to do the fundraiser again this Christmas so that we can start outfitting more of the hospital this way, since they seem to be pretty well taken care of when it comes to common play areas, but not so much when it comes to in-room entertainment.

I know we originally said one room.  One big room.  But why give the hospital something it doesn’t need as much, not when what the kids want the most is something to do in their rooms?

More details will be finalized in the coming weeks, including what exact gaming systems we will purchase and if you can donate games, etc.  I’ll keep you posted.

Now were going to go after these items and we’re going to go after deep discounts so that we can afford it all.  If however we come up a bit short … [big grin].



  1. Bojack
    February 22, 2010 3:00 pm

    Wonderful work Virginia!! :-)

  2. Woy
    February 22, 2010 3:06 pm

    I can echo Ginny’s sentiments – she captured the same feelings that I had as well while visiting the hospital.

    Thank you Pittsburgh for doing a Very Good Thing.

  3. Karyn
    February 22, 2010 3:16 pm

    awesome!!! and if you are looking for volunteers or help or need artsy assistance please please please let me know!!

  4. Nancy
    February 22, 2010 3:19 pm

    I honestly can’t think of a better way to use that money. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this project with you. Well done!!!

  5. gunnlino
    February 22, 2010 3:20 pm

    If and when you come up short, call me, I’ll put something else in the pot.

  6. gunnlino
    February 22, 2010 3:22 pm

    Er, ah… something more…. as in additional .
    Whee, that first part sounded a little weird.

  7. Schuyler
    February 22, 2010 3:25 pm

    Awesome idea! Absolutely perfect! Great, great work – again!!! :-)

  8. Dan (Not Onarato)
    February 22, 2010 3:27 pm

    Great work Ginny…well done!

  9. Erin
    February 22, 2010 3:28 pm

    Nice work! :)

  10. Jen
    February 22, 2010 3:37 pm

    Sounds like a very thoughtful allocation of resources. Good job!

  11. Karen
    February 22, 2010 3:40 pm

    A grand idea! I remember during my niece’s stay there she wasn’t even aloud to have her favorite stuffed animal (too many potential germs). Tough times for kids. Thanks for helping us make a big difference for those kids!

  12. Karen
    February 22, 2010 3:41 pm

    Oops, allowed. duh

  13. Craig
    February 22, 2010 3:44 pm

    Wonderful idea. By giving the transplant floor their own laptops and handhelds, you will make the current ones go further in the rest of the hospital. I like the one floor at a time approach. More chances for us to give!

  14. Sooska
    February 22, 2010 3:53 pm

    Brava, Chica! (I know it’s 2 different languages but what the hell)

  15. cathy
    February 22, 2010 4:01 pm

    Sounds like a great plan!!

  16. Bob M
    February 22, 2010 4:02 pm

    Just say the word.

  17. rossga
    February 22, 2010 4:15 pm

    Brilliant…let’s do it. Then let’s do it again later this year…

  18. Anne
    February 22, 2010 4:19 pm

    Thank you – rarely do we make a donation to a worthy cause and get that much detail as to how our donation will be put to use. Glad to hear about your plan in detail – keep up the great work!

  19. Sheila
    February 22, 2010 4:41 pm

    Awesome! I know a few kids that have been on the transplant floor of the old Children’s for many many days, weeks & months. So long that their hospital rooms are so decorated its like their bedroom at home :(. Individual gaming systems or laptops are a great idea. Thanks for finding a specific place for the donations to go & reporting back. Much appreciated.

  20. Bojack
    February 22, 2010 4:49 pm

    Wonderful work Mike!! :-)

  21. bluzdude
    February 22, 2010 4:54 pm

    I think that’s a great solution to the problem you observed. “Waiting” should not be in a kid’s vocabulary when they’re in that unit.

    This is seriously Good Work.

  22. HorseshoeBend
    February 22, 2010 5:06 pm

    Consider long term as to electronic purchases. For example, definitely purchase restore media for laptops plus upgrade warranties so they have direction to go if something should break or software needs reloaded. Everything should be wireless if possible and you would need to check with IT department on what they would provide as to connection(s) to internet/routers might be needed. In the case of xbox, wireless is an extra cost via optional adapter and also to play online you’d need to purchase some xbox live accounts. Hope this helps.

  23. JJ
    February 22, 2010 5:24 pm

    Like many, I always want to donate to worthy causes, but so often, it’s hard to know where that money goes or how that donation – big or small – actually helped to make a difference. I think so many people would be more willing to donate, if given an opportunity such as this. I would love to participate the next time you are taking donations for this or any other worthy cause. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to truly make a difference!

  24. Carly
    February 22, 2010 5:26 pm

    I love it! What a great idea!

  25. annietiques
    February 22, 2010 5:54 pm

    Ginny, wonderful idea! Well thought out, and a wonderful gift for “our” kids….. You have my full support and thanks!

  26. KGC
    February 22, 2010 6:03 pm

    Great idea. Trust me, you won’t be ‘short’.. especially if you make a big ‘hint’ ;) to us.. I know I’ll be in for more.. :)

  27. rickh
    February 22, 2010 6:07 pm

    Thanks for the update Ginny, and a virtual high five to you, Woy and everyone that made it possible!

  28. Emilie
    February 22, 2010 6:37 pm

    love the idea…it’s perfect. thanks for doing this Ginny & Woy… : )

  29. Leyna
    February 22, 2010 6:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing. This sounds like a wonderful plan! It’s nice to hear how the money is being spent.

  30. Allie K.
    February 22, 2010 6:45 pm

    I would put the word out to Gamestop and some of the other game retailers- they often resell perfect games and systems that have been brought in as trade. The games and systems are independently vetted (ie they all work), and you’ll get more for your money. :C)

  31. john
    February 22, 2010 6:46 pm

    Ginnys Kids

  32. Drea
    February 22, 2010 7:16 pm


  33. Clair
    February 22, 2010 7:20 pm

    wonderful idea! :)

  34. tehamy
    February 22, 2010 7:27 pm

    What a fabulous idea! I love that the money raised will be helping the kids that don’t have access to the current play areas. Great job guys!

  35. Carol
    February 22, 2010 8:17 pm

    This is something they will absolutely love. What an excellent idea.

    (Speaking as a mom who played every Super Mario, Zelda and Final Fantasy game in existence with her kids.)

  36. TwinMamaTeb
    February 22, 2010 8:18 pm

    A) I think your idea is fantastic.

    B)Thank you for choosing the transplant floor, one that is VERY near and dear to my heart.

  37. katsbynp
    February 22, 2010 8:22 pm

    Thanks for the update. I don’t foresee you coming up “short”-just say the word..after all it’s for the kids.

    Thanks to you and Mike for all your efforts.

  38. Lisa J
    February 22, 2010 8:30 pm

    Umm, as a mom I love you. I think that is an amzing idea. My step-son has spent countless nights at Childrens, stuck in bed, hooked up to a gajillion wires. I know how bored these kids can get. And boredom leaves them worrying about things you don’t want them worrying about. I hope you realize just how much this will help them. Thank you (she types through tears). You are amazing. Did I say that already? Oh well, at least you won’t forget.

  39. Noelle
    February 22, 2010 9:12 pm

    Hi. I am Matt’s mom – the one who funded the oncology playroom at Children’s. I am so happy to read that you would like to do the same for the transplant floors. Our son Matt, was a bright, amazing 12 year old who never once complained “why me” in his over 100 days of hospitalization at Children’s. However, he really loved gaming and computers. Just having a computer helped him forget the many needles, spinal taps and horrible procedures he had to endure. I am so proud of him and by working with Children’s we are able to tell his story. Thanks for spreading the news about our project and for letting me tell his story. If you are interested, I journaled (there wasn’t blogging then) online most of Matt’s journey. It is hard to read, but if you want to understand what our family went through, feel free to visit at

    Noelle – Matt’s mom!

  40. Lisa G.
    February 22, 2010 9:23 pm

    You never cease to amaze…bravo!!

  41. Emily
    February 23, 2010 12:34 am

    Sounds great! :o)

  42. Patricia
    February 23, 2010 6:38 am

    Excellent idea!! I’m so glad to be a (small) part of this – thank you!

  43. red pen mama
    February 23, 2010 9:07 am

    Wow, Ginny, thanks so much for sharing. It’s great to know the way our donations will be used. I think the transplant floor is a great choice.

  44. Steve
    February 23, 2010 10:13 am

    I agree with comment 22. from HorseshoeBend. The wireless capability should be looked over closely. Internet capable systems will allow the kids to interact with other real people, but they will require more planning than simply plug and play.

    I will understand if the wireless has to wait for phase II, but I think that we could pull it off.

    Noelle. Thank you for sharing your trial and for your generous work as well.

  45. Beatrice
    February 23, 2010 10:39 am


  46. Beth
    February 23, 2010 10:43 am

    That playroom is epic…but since they already have about three of them, this idea is genius. I’m proud that my donation is being put to good use.

  47. Ben
    February 23, 2010 11:02 am

    This is a great thing to do. Just as a thought, if you want information on how another charity went about doing something similar, you could try contacting the Child’s Play charity. They may have some tips for how to best go about providing for kids in the hospital.

  48. Mama Moose
    February 23, 2010 1:16 pm

    Great idea! I know how hard it is to entertain a sick kid stuck in the HOUSE, let alone a hospital room. Fantastic.

  49. ashley
    February 23, 2010 2:36 pm

    I am super proud of this city – thanks Ginny and Woy and everyone else for making this happen!

  50. Leah
    February 23, 2010 3:17 pm

    I work for a non-profit organization called Family House. We have a lot of adult pre, current and post transplant patients that stay with us. And I know even they get sick of being in one small room, with nothing to do. So, I can only imagine what it’s like for a child.
    I’m sure this endeavor is going to mean so, so much to those poor kids.
    At least now they can kick some Mario Kart butt while they sit in their beds!

    Thanks for all of your effort, Virginia!