Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens New Austin’s Playroom at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital

Thursday, April 14, 2022
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital (UH Rainbow) and the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced the opening of an Austin’s Playroom on the hospital’s fourth floor, adjacent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The playroom provides kids a place to play and relax while in the hospital or when visiting a loved one.
Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics, and child-friendly artwork. Nathalie Lemieux uniquely and personally designs each playroom. Each playroom features a train table, wall-mounted games, large screen TV, and much more, inside a brightly painted room.
“We are so pleased to open the 42nd Austin’s Playroom and the first in Ohio,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “Our goal is to reach as many children and families as possible, and we are excited to bring an Austin’s Playroom to babies and children at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.”
Austin’s Playrooms was established as a result of Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their infant son, Austin. In 1996, Austin was born profoundly premature and spent 71 days in the NICU. While they were caring for Austin, there was nothing to engage his sisters, who were both toddlers at the time. It was then Mario and Nathalie realized a need for playrooms and began their plan to establish Austin’s Playrooms.

“I started my career as a nurse in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units here at UH Rainbow, and vividly remember how stressful it can be for parents and siblings when faced with the anxiety of having a newborn in the NICU,” said Patti DePompei, RN, MSN, President, UH Rainbow and UH MacDonald Women’s hospitals. “Having an Austin’s Playroom here will improve our families’ experience, offering a form of distraction that will help to make the little ones feel better and do what kids do – play!”

In attendance were Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation and chair, Austin’s Playrooms; Nancy Angus, Executive Director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation; Patti DePompei, President, UH Rainbow and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation Chair in Leadership and Innovation; Edward Barksdale, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Surgery, UH Rainbow;  Paul Stimac, Sr. Project Manager, Sodexo; Melissa Fliegel, VAA Architects; Heather Baines, President, HR Construction Service; as well as special invited guests. 
About UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s offers the most expansive pediatric care network in Northeast Ohio, with more than 740,000 annual patient encounters at 131 service locations. The vast network includes nationally-ranked UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital -- Cleveland’s only full-service, freestanding children’s hospital with a medical staff of more than 745 physicians and Northern Ohio’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center – along with a primary care network of more than 200 pediatric and family medicine providers at 83 offices, inpatient care, pediatric emergency services, urgent care centers, surgery centers, medical and surgical specialty clinics, and advanced newborn and maternal/fetal medicine services. Learn more at
About the Mario Lemieux Foundation
The Mario Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playrooms, an initiative that creates playrooms for children and families in medical facilities. Since 1998, the Lemieux Foundation has given over $23 million to cancer research and patient care initiatives in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Recent projects include a $2.5M gift in 2014 to establish the Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and a $3.5M gift to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute to open the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the Hillman Cancer Center in 2012. Additionally, the Foundation has opened 32 Austin’s Playrooms in Western Pennsylvania as well as three military playrooms at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Camp Pendleton, CA and Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC. More information about the Mario Lemieux Foundation and Austin’s Playrooms is available at

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