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UC Irvine’s Student Alumni Association hosted its 8th annual UCI Care-a-thon dance marathon on April 13 at the Bren Events Center.

UCI Care-a-thon, the school’s largest student-run philanthropic event, is a six-hour dance marathon open to all students, faculty, and community members. To attend, each participant contributed $25. All proceeds from entrance fees, raffle tickets and donations went toward the UCI Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

UC Irvine’s NICU provides care for premature infants in critical condition. Dr. Muhammad Aslam, a specialist in neonatal-perinatal medicine and pediatrics, spoke at the event about his research at the NICU. Dr. Aslam focuses on infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BDS), a chronic lung disorder that often leads to respiratory illness that affects at least 30 percent of premature babies. 50 percent of those babies die of respiratory or heart failure. Dr. Aslam has discovered a way to use bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) to improve lung development in mice. He hopes to apply this research to premature infants with BDS by determining the role of tracheal fluid markers to develop more effective treatments.

The NICU at UC Irvine is one of two Level III neonatal centers in Orange County. It is also the only center in Orange County with advanced multidisciplinary care in one location for high-risk cases. The facility treats brain injury, respiratory failure and gastroesophageal reflux disease, among others.

The event featured various games and activities for attendees including a sumo wrestling ring, hamster ball race, caricature drawings, balloon art and face painting. Music was provided by Jay Velasco, also known as DJ Wayze. Ellen Shieh, acapella group Circle of Fifths, and dance groups Ballet Folklorico de UCI, Urban Motus and Project Team Dance Crew Modern performed throughout the night.   

About *277 students and staff showed up to dance. At the end of the night, prizes like Aquarium of the Pacific tickets, Disneyland parkhopper tickets, free games at Irvine Lanes and gift cards to Chipotle, Pei Wei, Urban Plates, DelSushi and The Habit were raffled off.

The Student Alumni Association raised a total of $20,344 for the NICU babies.

All photos courtesy of Benedict Chua.

*Correction: The number of attendees was actually 357.

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