COTR begins with Lighting of the Love Light Tree

Christmas on the River’s Special Child

Nelly Ortega-Duran

kicked off the COTR celebrations with the 29th annual Lighting of the Love Light Tree on Wednesday at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

“Nelly has been special since the day she was born,” said Linde McAdams, special child chairperson, while introducing Nelly.


Nelly, 7, is a first grader at Westside Elementary School who has spina bifida, myelomeningocele type, which is when the spine and spinal cord don’t fuse properly and is the most severe type.

She has been treated at Shriners Hospital in Houston, Texas. Nelly is not able to walk and uses a wheelchair for mobility. She is the daughter of Esmeralda Duran.

The celebration opened with a welcoming statement by the hospital’s CEO Doug Brewer and a prayer by Pastor Tyler Chastain of Revival Worship Center.

“It hopefully will be a great week with a lot of great, great memories,” Brewer said in anticipation of the rest of the week’s events.

Sandra Booen, president of the BWWMH Auxiliary, gave a review of the Love Lights Fundraiser during which ornaments can be purchased in memory or honor of a loved one. Ornaments are still available for sale through Dec. 31 for $3 for one and $5 for two.

Following a performance of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Laura Clements, 2018 COTR Chairperson Jennifer Roemen reminded the crowd of Thursday’s COTR including Thursday’s Lighting of the Public Square and Crowning of St. Nick concluding with a visit from Santa at the Demopolis Public Library.

Roemen also shared another new feature added to Thursday’s line-up.

“We’ve had some local artists painting some of the windows downtown near the chamber of commerce along that block that we’ll be walking,” she said.

This year’s nominees for St. Nick are Diane Brooker, Kirk Brooker, Richard Bryant, Brandi Cross, Jennifer Jordan, Amanda Hall, Kayte Melton, Beverly Robinson, Nadine Rogers, and Jason Windham.

Roemen also announced that tickets to the COTR Gala are still available at the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce Office for $30 for a single ticket and $50 per couple. The gala will take place at the Demopolis Civic Center at 6 p.m. and the COTR Dance will follow at 9 p.m.

Riley Quinney, who was the chairperson for Young Miss COTR, introduced this year’s various Miss COTR pageant winners and their courts, as well.

Miss COTR Court includes Miss COTR Alysse Dunklin, First Alternate Molly Katherine Harrison, Second Alternate Cassidy Crawford, Third Alternate Taylor Langley, Fourth Alternate Abby Quinney and Miss Congeniality Harley Johnston.

Miss Junior COTR Court includes, Junior Miss COTR Callee Madison Jones, First Alternate Madelyn Baty Singleton, Second Alternate Emma Ryan Edmonds, Third Alternate Lauren Olivia Tripp and Fourth Alternate Taylor Mills Quinney.

Young Miss COTR Court includes Young Miss COTR Millie Grace Hill, First Alternate Alli Taylor Basinger, Second Alternate Sadie Drew Dixon, Third alternate, Carter Lynn Crawford and Fourth Alternate Susanna Gray Bell.

Little Miss COTR Court includes Little Miss COTR Ridley Jean Colvin, First Alternate Lexie Jayne Yelverton, Second Alternate Katherine Marie Hewitt, Third Alternate Skylar Peighton Smith and Fourth Alternate Catherine Brooke Compton.