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Plum 11-year-old makes birthday money count for others

| Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, 2:57 p.m.
Eddie Miller, center, of Plum decided he would use his birthday money to purchase X-Box games and donate them to the pediatric in-patient unit at Allegheny General Hospital through a program called Make Room 4 Kids, an initiative of the Austin's Playroom Project and Mario Lemieux Foundation supported by Virginia Montanez and local Microsoft employees. Above, from left, are Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation; Mike Delon of Microsoft; Judy Zedreck, acting CEO of AGH; Eddie Miller and his parents, Ed and Christine; and Ian Lindsay of Microsoft. Submitted photo

Eddie Miller wanted a swim party for his 11th birthday.

Ed and Christine Miller of Plum eagerly began preparing to host the event for their son's classmates and hockey teammates at the Olympic Swim & Health Club in Penn Hills.

"He just wanted to have a large birthday party with his friends," Ed Miller said.

The Millers discussed with their son what he would do with the cash and gift cards his friends would give him.

"We talked with him about doing something nice instead of going out and buying more toys because there are a lot of people out there worse than he is," Ed Miller said.

Eddie Miller, who enters sixth grade this fall at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Plum, enthusiastically embraced the idea of using the birthday money and gift cards to help others.

He had one stipulation.

"He wanted to pick the organization he gave to," Ed Miller said.

Ed Miller immediately thought of the Mario Lemieux Foundation after reading about it on a website - "That's Church."

Eddie Miller who is a defenseman for the Pittsburgh Vipers, in the Pennsylvania Amateur Hockey League and the Central Catholic High School freshman hockey team for sixth- through eighth-graders, embraced the idea of helping the foundation.

The youngster plans to attend Central Catholic.

Also, hockey runs deep in the Miller family. Eddie Miller's cousins played for amateur and high school hockey. Ed Miller is a referee.

The Millers also have season tickets to Pittsburgh Penguins games.

"He has been around it (hockey)," Ed Miller said.

Eddie Miller didn't hesitate when asked to name his favorite Pittsburgh Penguins player.

"It's Sidney Crosby," he said.

The boy was quick to point out that Lemieux is his all-time favorite player.

The youngster aspires to be a professional hockey player or a veterinarian, his father said.

Eddie Miller's enthusiasm prompted his dad to contact the Lemieux foundation and find out about the Make Room 4 Kids program, an initiative of the Austin's Playroom Project and the Mario Lemieux Foundation and supported by Microsoft employees.

The foundation arranged for the donation to be made to the pediatric in-patient unit at Allegheny General Hospital.

After the party in March, Eddie Miller went on a shopping spree to three stores and spent $320 on 11 X-box games.

"The first one he wanted to buy was ‘Call of Duty,'" Ed Miller said.

The Millers pointed out to their son that the games were required to be rated for all ages of players.

"I got them (baseball) and football games," Eddie Miller said.

Eddie Miller and his family traveled July 17 to Allegheny General Hospital to donate the games.

Eddie Miller immediately asked to see the patients.

"The most striking part of the experience for me was that the day he came, Eddie engaged with the pediatric patients and talked with them while the games were being installed," said Drew Keys, assistant vice president of development for the West Penn Allegheny Health System.

"I got a genuine sense that it was Eddie's idea."

"It was good seeing the kids' happy faces when they realized they would get to do something and not lay in bed all day," Eddie Miller said.

He said he hopes to donate more items to the hospital at Christmas.

Keys said playing the games helps to occupy the patients.

"They are a great babysitter when pain seems to be the only thing on their minds," Keys said.

Lemieux foundation officials appreciate the youngster's gesture.

"He is a super nice kid," said Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

"It was so generous of him to want to do this."

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