With red lights flashing and music blaring through the walls of Doheny Beach in the Student Center last Thursday night, it was evident that the attendants of the UCI Care-a-thon were in for an evening of fun and entertainment. Yet anyone who is familiar with this event knows that it is more than simply a party. This year, the UCI Student Alumni Assocation and UCI Alumni hosted the5th-annual Care-A-Thon to raise money for the premature babies in the UC Irvine Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Though the performers tend to change each year, the cause remains the same. The UCI NICU is a highly specialized Level III institution which offers pioneering surgeries and techniques to help premature babies survive.
“Really seeing the babies and how tiny and fragile they are … it’s amazing,” Rueben Galban, one of the students in charge of the Care-A-Thon, said. “You can hold [the babies] in one hand. It is definitely eye opening. It’s a cause that pushes me to do this.”
The Care-A-Thon is a six hour dance party that has become one of most popular philanthropic events on campus and offers a way for graduates to continue giving back to the Irvine community.
“The fact that student alumni are working with undergrads is a great opportunity in itself,” Ashleigh Richardson, a UCI student, said.
Each participant raises $25 for the event and then commits to staying on their feet for six hours. The babies that inspired the event were there in spirit with baby bottle balloons floating overhead and baby bottle-shaped raffle jars. Blue and white balloon arches hung over the doors and invited students onto the dance floor. The participants also lined up for henna tattoos and photo booths. The mechanical bull was also a popular option. Students were treated to free food and drinks to fuel their dancing.
Particularly touching was the central station, where pictures of the babies and their doctors adorned tables scattered with cards and art supplies so that students could send a message over to the NICU patients.
“We are helping UCI babies from the start of their live and that is something that will last,” Carlotta Pham, the student in charge of manning the card station, said.
Of course, the biggest draw was the dance floor and DJ stage set up at the front of the room. Electronic Dance Union (EDU) and DJs Hunter Castro and Izzad Loh handled the music. The program featured a nice line-up of UCI talent, including Bboys Anonymous (BBA), MCIA and Jazzmine Farol. The new mime group called Ambience also entertained the crowd. Their choreography in white masks and lighted gloves made the students laugh and cheer when they started to dance to “Gagnam Style.”
Katy Perry songs and other popular techno songs added energy to the room. The amount of students at the event was inspiring.
“I think it’s awesome that students paid $25 and came out. That’s a lot. So I think it’s awesome,” UCI student Laruen Granillo said.
Care-A-Thon gets a lot of support from the local community as well as UCI students. The back of the blue T-shirts that each attendee received listed all of the organizations that helped out the cause, such as Disney, Prodigy Entertainment and Oakley. UCI Hospitality & Dining and UCI Athletics also lent a hand.
The UCI NICU features a specialized ambulance and a helipad, and provides services to areas as far away as Barstow, California. It is an essential part of the UC Irvine Douglas Hospital.
“I hope [the Care-A-Thon] becomes an Irvine thing,” Ganald said. “It would be awesome if the community knows that February is the time when the dance care-a-thon goes on.”
The event was open to all interested students, faculty and staff. Together, they raised $16,332.37 for the NICU patients. The money will go toward a portable head-cooling machine for the ambulance and helipad. This machine helps prevent brain damage and would add to the inventive and progressive program that makes the NICU so successful.