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CCU Atheneum: Head Football Coach David Bennett, left, and CCU President David DeCenzo, right, and Terri DeCenzo, center, pose for a television PSA for the March of Dimes. Charlene Hatfield and her son Brice, 5, are the Ambassador Family, along with husband Bric (not pictured).
Head Football Coach David Bennett, left, and CCU President David DeCenzo, right, and Terri DeCenzo, center, pose for a television PSA for the March of Dimes. Charlene Hatfield and her son Brice, 5, are the Ambassador Family, along with husband Bric (not pictured).

CCU alumni are ambassadors for March of Dimes

by Corrie Lee Lacey
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When Brice Hatfield was born, he took one breath and stopped breathing. He had arrived nearly three months early, weighing in at a mere 2 pounds 12 ounces, only 15 inches long. Jan. 16, 2005 is a day the Hatfield family will never forget.

“Brice was born blue,” said Charlene Hatfield, Brice’s mother. “I just wanted to know if he was alive. But they immediately rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit.”

Charlene was only 29 weeks into her pregnancy when she gave birth to baby Brice.

“I was mostly in shock,” said Charlene, a 32-year-old commercial loan assistant at First Federal Savings and Loan of Charleston in Myrtle Beach. “I was totally new to the concept of premature births. I knew nothing about it. I never thought in a million years I would have to go through this.”

Brice was born at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston where he spent most of his time in an incubator until March 11 when he was finally allowed to go home.

Five years later, Brice is a healthy, lively, 32-pound young boy who enjoys horses and sea creatures and playing with his best friend Noah.

On April 24, Brice, along with his parents, will participate in the Horry County March for Babies. The ambassador family will take the three-mile walk around Coastal Carolina University’s campus to raise money in an effort to prevent premature births like Brice’s.

CCU kicked off its March of Dimes’ March for Babies fundraising campaign Thursday, March 18 at Brooks Stadium, marking the fifth year for March for Babies at Coastal Carolina.

Terri DeCenzo, wife of University President David Decenzo, says the CCU community is proud to help out. Due to South Carolina’s high premature birth rate, DeCenzo says she feels CCU needs to be “committed to assisting our own local area and addressing this problem.”

Brice and his family are not alone in their struggles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half a million babies are born premature each year.

“All my check-ups were fine. I never got sick. I did everything right,” said Charlene.

Although they never expected it, Charlene and her husband Bric, 34-year-old fifth-grade teacher at Seaside Elementary School, welcomed baby Brice into the world a little sooner than they had expected.

“We were all scared and nervous. My mother was the worst,” said Charlene. “But we just kept praying. I just knew God would get us through it.”

And they got through it. But bringing Brice home wasn’t the end of their struggle.

“I stayed home for 12 weeks with him,” said Charlene. “We couldn’t take him out or show him off to our family and friends. For the first year, we couldn’t put him in a day care. And at night, my husband and I would work in shifts to monitor him.”

But now, with the worst behind them, the Hatfield family works to help other families facing premature births.

“Being the ambassador family has been awesome,” said Charlene, a CCU alumna who graduated in 2000. “We’ve had a great time. It’s a great cause and so important to spread awareness. The support from the CCU community has been great.” Bric is also a Coastal alumnus; he graduated in 1998.

Until Brice, Charlene didn’t have much knowledge of the March of Dimes. But after learning more about the organization, the Hatfield family has become involved.

“Last year was the first year we became really involved as far as heading up fundraising events,” said Charlene. “We were asked if we would be interested in becoming the 2010 ambassador family, and we excitedly said yes! Since the beginning of this year, we have sold candy bars, T-shirts, raised money through Jean Day at Seaside Elementary and through raffles. We have really gotten the kids involved at Seaside Elementary and the employees at First Federal.”

The March of Dimes funded research leading to the use of the drug called Surfactant, which is used to treat respiratory distress syndrome. “Because Brice was born three months early, his lungs were not fully developed and this drug [Surfactant] helped treat his respiratory problems,” said Charlene.

Brice, now 32 pounds and three feet, five inchestall, lives life as a normal 5-year-old boy. Although he may be a little smaller than other kids his age, he’s a survivor.

“Brice is a miracle,” said Charlene. “We’re blessed to have the happy ending.”

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