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CCMC opens new colorful playroom for child patients

HARTFORD – Patients at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford have a new place to hang out and just be a kid.

CCMC held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Lion’s Den playroom Tuesday as patients were already enjoying the activities inside. In a hospital that can sometimes house sadness and pain, the new playroom offers a lot of brightness and a burst of color.

"It was amazing because it has so much color in it,” said Connor Albert, a 10-year-old cancer patient who saw the room for the first time Tuesday.

"When I’m feeling a little nauseous, it helps because then it takes my mind off of it,” Albert said.

FOX61 caught up with Albert while he was playing video games inside the playroom with Kavon Perry-Little, a 17-year-old patient fighting a blood disorder.

"I saw all the games and I was like, I told myself, 'At least it’s not going to be boring in here anymore,'" said Perry-Little about his first visit to the Lion’s Den.

He added, "With the pain and all the medicines and how they make you feel, it’s a good distraction."

CCMC's is the 20th Lion’s Den to be built inside children’s hospitals around the country. It’s part of the mission of the Companions in Courage foundation founded by NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine.

The rooms have computers, video games, and TV screens with cameras so patients can video chat with their families, classmates and sports heroes.

LaFontaine said he was inspired to create these rooms from experiences he had visiting sick children while he was in the hospital with his own hockey-related injuries.

He said, "My injuries were trivial, but what they were going through was life and death."

"They need a place to go to just be a kid, to escape, to have fun, to connect with their school mates, their teachers, their heroes and that was part of the mission for the Lion’s Den where no child in the fight for life and health should ever have to go through it alone,” said LaFontaine.

The Lion’s Den at CCMC was funded by Diane and Fred Masotta of Hamden and their family and friends. Throughout their lives, the local business owners encouraged family and friends to contribute to a fund that would be used to benefit the children of Connecticut. When they passed away, their family asked that the funds they accumulated be used to build this room.

President and CEO at CCMC Jim Shmerling said, "It’s probably as effective as any medicine that we can provide any of the children. Watching a child smile is as good as penicillin. It’s wonderful.”