It was a heartwarming scene at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on Monday as a group of excited young children dipped their hands in colorful paint and took their turns placing them on a white Hyundai Santa Fe.
Some of them in wheelchairs, they posed for the cameras afterward with big, hopeful smiles.
“The handprints represent all of our patients, and the hope that they place in our research that’s supported by the Hyundai Foundation,” said Dr. Linda McAllister-Lucas, chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Hyundai Hope on Wheels and Pittsburgh-area Hyundai dealers presented Dr. McAllister-Lucas and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with a $100,000 Hyundai Impact Award for cancer research.
Children’s Hospital is one of 21 recipients of this year’s award, which is given to pediatric oncology departments at children’s hospitals nationwide.
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Dr. McAllister-Lucas said the money will be used to purchase a piece of laboratory research equipment that will be shared across all cancer research labs in Pittsburgh.
About 10 young cancer patients picked their favorite color to be placed on the car. One of them was 12-year-old Michael LaBella from Shaler. He wore a protective mask over his nose and mouth, Penguins baseball cap and a Robert Morris University T-shirt.
After being diagnosed with leukemia just this year, he had a successful bone marrow transplant in May.
He had to come back to the hospital for a few days, but was headed out Monday.
Although a smile wasn't visible through his face mask, Michael's eyes lit up when asked about his RMU T-shirt.
"Yeah, I play hockey at the Island Sports Center," he said, adding that he can't wait to get back into playing.
His grandmother Isabella Graven said this was an emotional moment.
“Children’s Hospital has been wonderful,” she said. “They’ve treated him well.”
Celebrating its 20th year, Hope on Wheels has awarded $145 million in donations to pediatric cancer research; Children’s Hospital has received more than $1.6 million from Hope on Wheels.
“Doing cancer research is super-expensive, and we need support from philanthropic foundations like Hyundai in order to do it,” Dr. McAllister-Lucas said. “We are so grateful that they give us these funds.”
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