PITTSBURGH — September 7, 2011 — The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of their newest Austin’s Playroom at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, in the Warrior Transition Unit, which serves wounded warriors and their families. Mario Lemieux, NHL Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Penguins owner, and his wife, Nathalie were on hand and participated in the dedication ceremony. “I am proud to join forces with the United States military and establish this new Austin’s Playroom at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “It’s my hope that this playroom provides comfort, warmth and happiness for these very special military families.”
The Lemieux’s were joined by Vice Admiral John M. Mateczun, MC, USN, Commander, Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical, and Rear Admiral Matthew Nathan, Commander, Navy Medicine National Capital Area Region, Commander, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Chief, Navy Medical Corps.
The opening of the Austin’s Playroom at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is featured on both the White House’s blog and the First Lady’s Joining Forces blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/06/austin-s-warrior-playroom-new-space-families-walter-reed
The playroom was built from donations from private individuals and corporations and is the first playroom established by the Lemieux Foundation outside of Pennsylvania and on a military installation. The opening of this room makes a total of 23 Austin’s Playrooms opened, with an additional five rooms to be completed by the end of the year.
Austin’s Playroom Project was established following Nathalie and Mario Lemieux's personal experience while caring for their profoundly premature infant son at Magee-Womens Hospital. As they were tending to young Austin, there was no place to engage the lively minds of his sisters, as well as provide a comfortable calming environment. It was then that Nathalie devised this idea to someday raise funds for playrooms in hospitals and medical facilities.
Austin’s Playroom Project seeks to benefit families and improve the quality of a child's hospital experience whether as a visitor or patient by furnishing cheerful playrooms that are safe, calming and comfortable. Nathalie Lemieux serves as Chair of Austin’s Playroom Project, and each room is called Austin's Playroom. Mario Lemieux is Chairman of the Mario Lemieux Foundation.