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Bates is COTR’s Special Child

Ashley Alyshia Bates, 3, of Linden was announced as the 2009 Special Child for the Christmas on the River festival. Her first duty was to throw the switch to light up the Love Lights tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital on Sunday.

Ashley was born with Down Syndrome and had to have open-heart surgery soon after birth. She is the daughter of Mary Wright, and has two siblings: sister Jasmine Wright, 13, and brother Paul Wright, 14.

“We use the criteria for a child who has special needs and lives in the county,” said Special Child chair Linde McAdams. “We looked for somebody who had special needs, but who would enjoy being the Special Child: enjoy being around people, being in the parade and have a good time.

“Ashley had to have surgery right after she was born, but she hasn’t had any more health problems since. She’s real cute and real precocious and outgoing.”

Ashley’s mother, Mary Wright, wasn’t sure how to take the news of her daughter’s honor.

“At first, I felt devastated, but now, it’s a joy,” she said. “She had open-heart surgery soon after she was born to repair a hole in her heart.”

Ashley will take part in the Christmas on the River children’s day parade on Saturday.