The 68th annual KDKA UPMC Children's Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show is this Thursday, Dec. 16.By Kristine Sorensen

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The 68th annual KDKA UPMC Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show is this Thursday, Dec. 16, and this year’s junior co-hosts are familiar faces.

READ MORE: Fire Damages Several Businesses In Greene County

Alaina Toplovich, 13, and Sean Nolan, 20, were our junior co-hosts back in 2018.

We decided to invite them back this year as part of our commitment to highlighting how UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh continues to change lives, long after patients leave the hospital.

In 2016, at age 15, Sean was a typical teenager. He was hanging out with his friends, playing basketball and getting ready for the school musical.

“I was just a normal sophomore in high school, and a lump started to grow on the right side of my neck. After a couple biopsies and tests we found out it was cancer, specifically Burkitt’s lymphoma. I immediately thought, ‘How is this possible? I’m 15-years-old. I’ve always been relatively healthy. This can’t be happening,'” Sean said.

He went through four rounds of chemotherapy at UPMC Children’s.

“It was definitely emotionally draining. As much as it was physical, it was that much more mental too,” said Sean.

He credits not only his family and friends, but the staff at UPMC Children’s for helping him get through it.

“Everybody from the first moment we stepped in that hospital just wanted me to get better. The doctors would come in every single day and ask me how I was feeling physically, but also how I was feeling emotionally. And the nurses have become family to me and my entire family. I’ve even been to some of their weddings,” he said.

Alaina feels the same way about UPMC Children’s.

“Whenever I describe it, I say it’s like my favorite hotel. It honestly is. You don’t really think you’re in a hospital. It’s just so amazing. The care that you get there is just phenomenal,” said Alaina.

She has been a fighter since day one.

READ MORE: AAA Recommends Periodic Car-Washing To Avoid Expensive Rust Damage

“When I was born, I had multiple VSDs which are ventricular septal defects. I had holes in my heart. So I had to get open-heart surgery,” Alaina said.

She had that open-heart surgery when she was just a few months old.

Then, just a few years ago, she had another major operation.

“I had to have another surgery in 2018 because I kept passing out,” she said. “So I had to go get a pacemaker, and I still have that.”

Her condition is genetic. Her mother and brother have it, too. And the family has learned how to navigate it all with the help of UPMC Children’s.

“Children’s is amazing. It’s a great hospital and I really am grateful for all the care that I got there,” she said.

Today, Alaina is healthy and happy and already thinking about college and a career.

“Well, I love animals, so I would like to do something with that or I like to write, too. So maybe something in writing. Or there’s actually several things I’d like to do,” said Alaina.

Meanwhile, Sean will celebrate five years cancer free in January. He’s now a junior at Robert Morris University, majoring in journalism, with one ultimate goal in mind.

“I want to work for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. I want to be able to write these stories about the kids in there and just give back to the place that. If wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” Sean said.

Sean, Alaina and countless other children are alive today, because of the care they received at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. And the Free Care Fund at UPMC Children’s has helped so many families afford that medical care over the years.

Please help us keep that fund going! Click here to learn how to donate to the Free Care Fund.

MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Weather: Southern Areas Could See More Snow On Wednesday Night

Join us this Thursday, Dec. 16, beginning at 4 p.m. for the 68th annual KDKA Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show.

Kristine Sorensen