Every year the Variety Club names a celebrity child for the annual telethon. This year, that boy is six-year-old Ashton Ross Smith.
His story began on December 18, 2009.
Six weeks later Ashton became ill with Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and eventually developed pneumonia. He was immediately put on oxygen and rushed to Olean General Hospital in the middle of a treacherous winter storm. After arriving Ashton's family waited, while a medical team was assembled by Children's Hospital in Buffalo--sent to Olean to pick up the newborn.
Almost exactly one year later, on February 11, 2010, Ashton's blood and oxygen levels immediately dropped from 100% to 0% in a matter of seconds.
Ashton's family said this was the moment their lives changed forever.
"Our perfectly healthy youngest son was crashing right in front of our eyes," Alisa Smith, Ashton's mother said. "We were helpless, we were desperate, we began to panic, we prayed."
Ashton suffered respiratory arrest. Soon after that he went into cardiac arrest. Ashton, with his family by his side, went in and out of consciousness as his heartbeats grew farther and farther apart.
"We actually watched Ashton's body turn all sorts of colors. Different colors as he just slipped away."
Eventually, doctors were able to revive Ashton and he was placed on life support.
Doctors said it did not look good, so the family had Ashton baptized right in the hospital.
"Some of the doctors really told us to be honest we don't expect to see you here tomorrow with Ashton. It's really bad."
Ashton stayed on life support for six more days until doctors shut off the "beautiful, amazing machine that was keeping our son alive."
Eventually doctors took Ashton off life support for good, ending the Smith's nightmare.
"He was looking into our eyes, drinking out of a bottle and he was smiling. No more machines. Our prayers were answered. As parents we just wanted our baby with us and in our arms and home with his brother and family where he belongs."
Fast forward to February 2016, and you see an entirely different picture in the household.
Ashton is alive and thriving at his constant checkups at Women and Children's Hospital, the same place that saved his life.
"These doctors were amazing. They were there to, they treated us like family."
However, his battle continues as he has cerebral palsy and seizure disorder.
His family knows he will get through it because "he's our little fighter."
Although Ashton's story is remarkable and heartbreaking, he is not alone. Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo helps children fighting for their lives every single day.
Much of the money raised at the 54th annual Variety Club telethon is donated to Children's Hospital.
The telethon starts at 7 a.m. Sunday March, 6 and runs until 7 p.m. You can watch all day on 7 ABC and donate right from your home, to help kids like Ashton and those families battling every day right here in Western New York.