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December 6,  2001

Starlight Children's Foundation(R) Announces Launch of 'PC Pal'

Starlight Partners Compaq and Best Buy Provide Information Technology And Funding for PC Pal Program

 (SafetyAlerts) - Starlight Children's Foundation(R) announces the launch of PC Pal, a mobile personal computer designed specifically for kid-users. PC Pal gives hospitalized children a new distraction from therapy and brings exciting educational, entertainment and communication opportunities to almost any pediatric patient. Corporate sponsors, Compaq Computer Corporation (NYSE: CPQ) and Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY) have teamed up to provide state-of-the-art technology and retail support to the PC Pal program. Starlight kids now have unprecedented Internet access, allowing them to stay connected to their everyday lives while hospitalized, keeping up with schoolwork, making friends, playing games and even sending email.

Following the success of other Starlight programs for hospitalized kids, PC Pal provides a high-tech answer to the monotony and loneliness that often accompany long hospital stays. Along with kid-friendly desktops, appealing graphics and a variety of games, PC Pal comes installed with a modem and filtered web browser as well as word-processing and graphic design software. "PC Pal is a groundbreaking program for Starlight," said Laura Thrall, senior director of marketing and fund development for Starlight International. "It's hard enough for an adult to be in the hospital, but even more frightening for a child. To witness firsthand the smile on a child's face when they get an email from a friend or chat with a teacher is amazing."

Many child life directors and hospital staff have already witnessed the benefits of the PC Pal program. "The PC Pals have been a wonderful addition to our program," says Amy Sheerman, child life specialist at the University of Chicago Children's Hospital. "They have served as a distraction while providing hours of entertainment right at the child's bedside. As child life specialists, we strive to decrease anxiety surrounding healthcare experiences. We attempt to re-establish a sense of normalcy and routine for the children. In an environment that is full of new sounds and smells, threatening equipment and strangers, the PC Pal adds a much-needed sense of familiarity. Computers have become commonplace in most schools and many homes. They are something kids are familiar with and enjoy using. The PC Pals have certainly helped our patients cope with the unpleasant aspects of hospitalization."

PC Pal is the only mobile computer unit for hospitalized kids that comes complete with a comprehensive program, offering custom-loaded software, a designated technical support line and on-site maintenance of the units. "This program is an excellent example of how technology not only fulfills but goes beyond the role of a communication tool," said Steve Huey, vice president of community affairs at Compaq. "Kids have instant access to the Internet, connecting them to their family, friends, classrooms and all the Internet has to offer. Providing access to the Internet is a priority at Compaq and PC Pal demonstrates how invaluable this means of communication can be."

Joy Peterson, Best Buy community relations director, also described the PC Pal as an extension of her company's mission. "The Best Buy vision is to meet people at the intersection of life and technology," she said. "That intersection is an especially important and meaningful place in the lives of young people, which makes the PC Pal such a terrific concept. Our company is proud to be a national sponsor of these systems because we know they will go a long way in helping kids and their families cope with the anxiety of a hospital stay."

An overwhelming number of requests for computers and their capabilities from hospital staffs, coupled with the success of Starlight Fun Centers led to the development of the PC Pal program. The pilot program began in April 2001 at three Chicago hospitals and in Long Beach, California. Starlight is now working to place the first 50 units in a number of hospitals in New York City, Boston, Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. The initial rollout will reach approximately 1,200 children per month and 14,400 per year.

Starlight Children's Foundation(R) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for seriously ill children and their families. Working with more than 650 hospitals worldwide, the Foundation provides an impressive menu of both in-hospital and outpatient programs and services. A leader in delivering distractive entertainment therapies, over 85,000 children benefit from Starlight's programs each month.

Source: PRNewswire.

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