The Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens New Austin’s Playroom at Small Town Hope, Inc.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens New Austin’s Playroom at Small Town Hope, Inc.

Hastings, PA Sept. 17, 2019 – Small Town Hope, Inc. and the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at the “treehouse” located on 276 Number 9 Road.

The playroom will be a resource and activity hub for children and their families to connect and play despite physical, social, or emotional challenges in a gorgeous rural setting.

Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation and chair, Austin’s Playrooms, Mandi Paronish, MSN, RN, CPN – Founder, Small Town Hope, Inc., Kathleen Toole, board president, Small Town Hope, Inc., Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and special invited guests, officially opened the space.

“We are so pleased to open the 37th Austin’s Playroom,” 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 children living in Hastings, PA and the sounding communities”

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 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 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.

“Featuring an Austin’s Playroom within our Treehouse facility is beyond dreamy.  It has always been the mission of Small Town Hope to remove the barriers that get in the way of children having positive experiences. Two of the biggest obstacles families with children living in rural communities face daily is distance and accessibility.  The Mario Lemieux Foundation’s contribution and collaboration directly improves the accessibility to such a play space, but it also increases availability to it.  We are thrilled to work together to ensure that this new playroom allows us to reach as many children and families possible,” said Ms. Paronish. “Having an Austin’s Playroom here will ensure that children and families have a bright and comfortable place to relax and play. This addition will enable us to be a hub for children and families to spend quality time together, despite other circumstances they may be facing.”

On an average daily basis, there are 50 families who are currently engaged in activities with Small Town Hope who can, and will, be using the new Austin’s Playroom.

Each Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, activities, and child-friendly artwork. Nathalie Lemieux uniquely and personally designs each playroom. Additionally, each playroom features a train table, wall-mounted games, activity table, and much more, inside a brightly painted room.

About Small Town Hope, Inc.

Small Town Hope, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization committed to serving and supporting the health and wellness of the pediatric population as part of a national rural health initiative. Reducing the barrier of distance between children and services available can be evidenced by the provision of numerous evidenced based programs and education opportunities provided that inspire, educate & strengthen the dynamics of the family.  With more than 15 years of pediatric specific nursing experience, founder and nurse lead Mandi Paronish, understands how limited accessibility and availability results directly in difficulty for families living in rural areas to maintain and sustain pediatric health.  Nurse led initiatives and collaborations combined with early childhood education and high-quality childcare drive the level of opportunities Small Town Hope is able to provide for increased opportunities for wellness.  Partnerships with national and local businesses and organizations continue to create avenues of growth in quantity and quality for health and wellness opportunities.  More information about Small Town Hope, Inc. is available 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 committed over $30 million to cancer research and patient care initiatives in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Recent projects include a $5M pledge to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center to establish the Mario Lemieux Immunotherapy Center to expand and enhance innovative immunotherapy treatments for patients with certain types of solid tumors, both through research and personalized patient care.  Other gifts include $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 33 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 mlf.docker.localhost.