Christmas on the River 2016 kicked-off in Demopolis Wednesday as Camilla Bett Smith, daughter of Kelley and Brandon Smith, was honored as the COTR Special Child for 2016. Camilla is 11-years-old and attends US Jones Elementary School. She was born Aug. 14, 2005, and for the first six months of her life she met all developmental milestones as expected. However, at age six months she began to have clusters of seizure activity, sometimes up to 80 seizures daily, diagnosed as Infantile Spasms. As she aged, continued seizure activity progressed to the diagnosis of Intractable Epilepsy. Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Alabama used over 19 anti-epileptic drugs to control her seizures without success. At one point, she went over a year and a half with severe hyperactivity and essentially no sleep at all.
“She has been through a lot!” said her mother, Kelley.
At age 4, the first surgical procedure to control seizures was a Vagal Nerve Stimulator. The stimulator was implanted and remains in Camilla today, but unfortunately it did not control the seizure activity and was ultimately turned off. At age six, she underwent a surgical procedure called a Corpus Callosotomy which separated the right and left hemispheres of her brain. This procedure resulted in six weeks of no seizure activity. Unfortunately, seizure activity did return, but the procedure enabled physicians to determine in what part of the brain the activity was occurring and three areas were later surgically removed in the right hemisphere of her brain. With these three areas of the brain quieted, she was completely seizure-free for over four years.
Of late, nocturnal seizures have been identified by her neurologists, but she has been basically stable on the five medications that she takes daily. During the course of our visit, and before her brother Crosby (age 6), could act first, she sang the Happy Birthday Song while blowing out one of her mother’s decorative scented candle.
“This is a girl that was not expected to have any speech, nor be able to walk, or live, or learn. As you can see, she is able to count, form sentences, say the alphabet, and comprehends the world around her,” said Kelley.
There are estimated to be over 5.1 million people in the United States with seizures or seizure disorder. When asked how their family has adapted to Camilla’s special needs Kelley simply said, “We decided to actively live and fit everything else right into our lives.”
The Smiths feel strength and support by extended family that lives nearby, Fairhaven Baptist Church family, and the Individual and Family Support Group through West Alabama Mental Health Center in Demopolis.
Camilla Bett Smith is a beautiful, enthusiastic, and joyful young girl. If you are lucky enough to see Camilla and her family around Demopolis celebrating Christmas on the River, or if you see her in the Children’s Parade, be sure to wave as she is the most Special Child of Christmas on the River this year.
COTR festivities resume tonight at 5:30 p.m. as the Public Square in downtown Demopolis is lit and the 2016 St. Nicholas is crowned.
For a full schedule of COTR events, click here.
The Christmas on the River pageants of 2016 came to an end with the crowning of the Little Miss COTR. 42 beautiful and energetic little ladies competed for the title at the Demopolis Civic Center Wednesday. Mistress of Ceremonies Debbie Butler announced each of the girls as they walked on stage, dressed to impress the judges. With a long list competing for the title, the judges picked a top 22 and then narrowed it down to a top 10.
The top 10 consisted of Susan Gray Bell, Claire Elisabeth Hasty, Khloe Gail Wolf, Camdyn Grace Morgan, Carly James Teel, Lilian Maria Magana, Anna Faith Wheeler, Emma Rae Claire Dahl, Brooke NyAsia Clark, and Violet Elizabeth Smelley.
The judges then decided on a top five that would compete one more time by answering an onstage question before they made their final decision.
Claire Elisabeth Hasty earned fourth alternate in a royal blue tulle gown embellished with sequins.
Awarded third alternate was Emma Rae Claire Dahl, wearing a pastel pink satin gown with ruffles and crystals.
In a beautiful light blue ruffled gown was second alternate Lilian Maria Magaña.
Susanna Gray Bell, wearing a white sparkle tulle gown trimmed in rhinestones, was chosen as first alternate.
Crowned Little Miss COTR 2016 was Camdyn Grace Morgan. Morgan wore a gorgeous bubble gum pink Quinceanera gown covered in ruffles and adorned in crystals. She is the five-year-old daughter of Brian and Angel Morgan and attends K-5 at Marengo Academy. Morgan was very excited to be wearing the beautiful Little Miss COTR crown and to also be wearing her favorite color pink.
Thanks for following The West Alabama Watchman for updates on this year’s COTR pageants.
Another pageant queen is in the books as Young Miss Christmas on the River 2016 was crowned at the Demopolis Civic Center tonight.
Master of Ceremonies Dr. Ken Tucker presented each of the 36 lovely contestants. After they each took a turn to impress the three judges, a top 16 was chosen.
The top 16 included Sara Michael Overmyer, Madelyn Baty Singleton, Elizabeth Anne Lawler, Elleigh Reid Dossett, Jaclynn Danielle Doss, Millie Grace Hill, Adalyn Broox Lindsey, Sasser Elizabeth Braswell, Anna Caroline Davidson, Rylie Abigail Craft, Emery Elizabeth Wideman, Lauren Olivia Tripp, Anna Arrington Freeman, Isabella Rosemond Mac Lennan, Elizabeth Ann Hathcock and Alle Grace Quarles.
The top 16 were then presented to judges again in hopes of being placed in the top five and competing for the crown by answering an onstage question. After telling the judges what their favorite Christmas present was and why, the judges came to a decision.
Wearing and ivory and sparkling gold ball gown was fourth alternate Adalyn Broox Lindsey.
Elleigh Reid Dossett, in a sea foam green tiered organza gown, was awarded third alternate.
Second Alternate was Sara Michael Overmyer, who wore a white tulle gown adorned with iridescent stones.
Donning a glistening golden gown was Millie Grace Hill, who earned the first alternate spot.
Crowned Young Miss Christmas on the River 2016 was Elizabeth Anne Lawler in a beautiful white chiffon gown with crystal detailing. Elizabeth is the 10-year-old daughter of Jimmy and Anne Marie Lawler. She attends U. S. Jones and is in the fifth grade. Lawler said she was very surprised to be crowned and looks forward to riding on the float as this year’s Young Miss COTR.
Follow The Watchman to find out the final winner in this year’s Christmas on the River Pageants tomorrow night.
Christmas on the River 2016 pageant week continued with the crowning of Miss Junior COTR 2016. Allen Bishop served as the Master of Ceremonies at the event which started at 7 p.m. at the Demopolis Civic Center. Bishop announced each of the 19 beautiful young ladies vying for this year’s title and her court. Each contestant was judged on her beauty, style, poise and onstage personality before the top 10 were selected.
Tonight’s top 10 were Megan Lindsey Roe, Cassidy Claire Crawford, Brianna Gandy Doss, Abigayle Marie Quinney, Molly Katherine Harrison, Anna Kate Golden, LaCher Gray, Abby Grace Cameron, Taylor Alysse Dunklin and Abigail Virginia Hathcock.
The contestants were then judged again to reveal the top five, who would answer an onstage question in hopes of impressing the judges one last time. After the judges deliberated and turned in their scores, the queen and her court were chosen.
Fourth alternate Megan Lindsey Roe wore an elegant red chiffon gown.
Cassidy Clair Crawford, wearing a lavender chiffon gown adorned in crystals, was awarded 3rd alternate.
Wearing a pale peach sparkle tulle gown was second alternate LaCher Gray.
Earning first alternate was Abby Grace Cameron, in a beautiful white chiffon evening gown with crystal detailing.
This year’s Miss Junior Christmas on the River is Molly Katherine Harrison, who wore a lovely ivory satin ball gown with intricate pearl and crystal detailing. Molly is the 12-year-old daughter of Valley and Julie Harrison and is a seventh grader at Demopolis Middle School. Harrison was very surprised when her name was announced and is looking forward to attending all of the Christmas on the River events this year.
Stay tuned to The West Alabama Watchman for more Christmas on the River pageant winners to come.