The Hoopla on Market Square is a fundraiser to benefit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, NICU, at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

The money raised from this event will benefit the expansion of the private rooms system found in UT Medical Center’s NICU.

“UT Medical Center has the only NICU in the region offering private rooms for the care of premature and critically ill babies,” Jim Ragonese, who works with public relations operations for UT Medical Center, said. “The 58-bed nursery features 29 private rooms, including twin-bed rooms.”

The private room system is the “next best thing to a mother’s womb,” Ragonese said.

“The intent of the private rooms, which include carefully controlled indirect lighting and sound-dampening materials in the floor and ceilings, is to best replicate the environment that a premature baby would experience if he or she were still in the mother’s womb,” Ragonese said. “Studies have shown that minimizing noise and light can have a positive physiological effect on premature infants who need extra help to fully develop their systems. The developmental care approach at UT Medical Center provides a supportive, nurturing environment designed to improve the baby’s development.”

The Hoopla benefit is an extension of a larger benefit.

“The Hoopla event was started last year as an extension to the Hoops for Preemies fundraiser,” Seth Smith, brother of the founder of the event, said. “Hoopla was started by my sister, Stacey Rivers, and her husband, Dr. Jim Rivers. We thought this would be a fun way to end the day and provide another fundraising opportunity for the NICU at UT Hospital.”

Smith and his family thought this was a good way to give back to UTMC after his daughter spent her first 100 days in NICU.

“Although it was a difficult time, we never had a bad day at UT,” he said. “They kept us well-informed and went to great lengths meeting all of our needs. The nurses were loving and caring.”

Smith said the experience made him want to give back to the NICU.

“Because of the superb care we received at UT, we feel strongly about helping the NICU,” he said. “One out of every seven babies in Tennessee is born premature, and we are dedicated to doing all we can to prevent premature births.”

Stacey Rivers, founder of Hoopla, said that this event put their family’s resources to good use.

“It was a great way to use the resources our family has in music and entertainment as a way of thanking UTMC for taking such great care of my brother, his wife and my niece, Shelby, who spent 100 days in the NICU,” she said.


Rivers said those who cannot attend the Hoopla event can donate in other ways.

“Individuals or businesses may make a tax-deductible donation directly to the Development Office at UTMC designated to the Private Rooms in the NICU,” Rivers said. “They may also contact UTMC for other volunteer opportunities, which will support the NICU. If individuals are not able to attend Hoopla on Market Square, they may attend Hoops for Preemies at Webb School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.”

UT Medical Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary of the opening of the NICU. Ragonese said the NICU cares for 700 to 800 babies a year.

The Hoopla on Market Square will be held Saturday at Latitude 35 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The evening will feature food and music by The Vibraslaps.