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Mario Lemieux Foundation social media drive fills wish lists for hospitalized kids | TribLIVE.com
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Mario Lemieux Foundation social media drive fills wish lists for hospitalized kids

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, February 26, 2019 1:30 a.m
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Mario Lemieux Foundation
The Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Make Room For Kids campaign posted a list of games and movies it needed on Twitter on Feb. 21 and by Feb. 23 it was filled – in 48 hours!
803704_web1_PTR-ROOMFORKIDS-022719
Mario Lemieux Foundation
The Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Make Room For Kids campaign posted a list of games and movies it needed on Twitter on Feb. 21 and by Feb. 23 it was filled – in 48 hours!

These wishes came true quickly.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Make Room For Kids campaign posted a list of items needed for sick children. The tweet went out on Feb. 21. The list was filled within two days.

“It is unbelievable,” said Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation. “It’s a true testament to Pittsburgh, which is such a wonderful, giving community. Grateful doesn’t cover it. It’s surreal.”

Make Room For Kids began as a social media drive by local blogger Virginia Montanez aimed to bring gaming to sick children in medical facilities.

Donated money is used to provide Xbox consoles, kiosks, controllers and games. Some donors send the gifts requested instead of money.

It’s become an official extension of the Mario Lemieux Foundation’s Austin’s Playrooms, a program where the foundation establishes playrooms for Angus said the power of social media and Montanez’s followers as well as the commitment from Microsoft, which provides matching gifts for the consoles.

Luke Sossi, regional director Microsoft in Pittsburgh, said when the project started 10 years ago, he and some colleagues purchased Xboxes and donated them. They have since given over 350 Xboxes, which are in addition to all the games and movies donated. He says these donations also help the siblings of the children in the hospital, as well as their parents, because everyone can play. It also gives them a sense of normalcy because many of them have an Xbox at home.

“When you see the faces of those kids when you hand them a controller for them to play it’s something you can’t forget,” Sossi said. “Some of these kids have been in the hospital for months so to give them a little bit of happiness, that’s an amazing moment. It’s so rewarding. It also puts life in perspective.”

When the postman arrived (Monday) it was like he had a big Santa bag full of gifts, Angus said.

“We believe these games and movies really help these children,” she said

The gifts can be a distraction from pain or promote healing, she said.

Montanez this year realized 800 games and movies were needed and so she sought help via social media. She told followers the hospitalized children of Pittsburgh needed Xbox games and movies. She and included a link to Amazon where they could be purchased. Later, she shared photos of bags of games and movies and thanked everyone for their generosity.

This year, the games and equipment will go to the Medical Surgery Unit at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Angus said. The Adolescent Medicine Unit is receiving new Xbox Ones to replace their old 360s.

Make Room For Kids will be featured on the pregame for the Penguins’ March 16 game against the St. Louis Blues at PPG Paints Arena in a production by AT&T SportsNet.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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