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Love Light Tree lighting kicks off Christmas on the River

The tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital was lit Wednesday evening.

The tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital was lit Wednesday evening.

With the flip of a switch, the Love Light Tree atop Bryan. W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital was lit Wednesday, kicking off a week of Christmas on the River festivities.

Little Miss Christmas on the River had the honor of lighting the tree in place of the 2013 Special Child, Generria Brown, who couldn’t be present.

GENERRIA BROWN

GENERRIA BROWN

Brown, a 7-year-old Westside student, has Down Syndrome, a genetic condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome.

She is the daughter of Sharika Brown and has one brother, Devonte, who is 10, and is in Teila Lee’s class at Westside. She will ride on her own float in Saturday’s day parade.

“She loves to go to school,” said Linde McAdams, who oversees the special child selection process each year. “She has always been special to her family.”

The Children's Choir from Demopolis First United Methodist Church sung Christmas carols during the tree lighting.

The Children’s Choir from Demopolis First United Methodist Church sang Christmas carols during the tree lighting.

Whitfield’s Auxiliary, which has sponsored the event for 24 years, was also recognized. The Auxiliary celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

“They do a tremendous amount of hard work for us,” said Whitfield administrator Mike Marshall.

Auxiliary members put in more than 10,300 volunteer hours and raised $70,000 for the hospital this past year, Marshall said.

The Demopolis First United Methodist Church’s Children Choir sang several Christmas Carols after the lighting. The Rev. John David Barnes from Trinity Episcopal Church gave the invocation and benediction.

Whitfield Auxiliary President Johnnie Knott speaks during Wednesday's program.

Whitfield Auxiliary President Johnnie Knott speaks during Wednesday’s program.

Christmas on the River continues Thursday with the Lighting of Public Square at 5:30 p.m. The event also includes the crowing of St. Nick and the reading of the Christmas story at the Square downtown.