Luci Newton of Suwanee is preparing for her role as 33rd annual Children’s Christmas Parade royalty.
A few hundred thousand people will line the streets of Midtown Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon to catch a glimpse of the procession, a much anticipated staple of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s outreach platform.
Featured prominently will be 6-year-old Luci, a local burn victim and Children’s patient. The resilient tyke’s distinction as the 2013 Face of the Parade has earned her a spot alongside Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
“I told her that all of the doctors and nurses picked her to be the Christmas princess because she was strong and brave, and when we go to the hospital she does the hard stuff and is so tough,” said Luci’s mother, Tara Newton. “I told her that they were looking for a princess who was kind and had a big heart and knows how to be a friend … and they saw all of those qualities in her.”
Luci’s reward will culminate in Saturday’s horse-drawn carriage ride with her family — from Peachtree and 16th streets to Peachtree and 6th — as part of the largest Christmas parade in the Southeast. That is a far cry from the family’s beginnings, which date back a couple of years.
Newton and her husband, Brian, adopted Luci then. Luci had been left at orphanage by her birth parents after suffering severe burns in a home fire accident as a baby in her native China.
The precocious youngster, who is fluent in English, has already endured multiple reconstructive surgeries and is likely to have a few more.
“As this year’s Face of the Parade, Luci represents all of the patients and families who pass through the doors of Children’s,” said Abby Marcinko, a program coordinator for the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation. “She also serves as a reminder that the holidays are a time to be thankful and to give back. Children’s would not be the facility it is without the help and support of our community.”
Few instances of that communal backing will be more evident than Saturday’s annual parade. Proceeds will help to fund programs and equipment to serve patients and their families at Children’s.
The parade route had previously wended its way through downtown Atlanta. The move to Midtown was made to accommodate the construction of the new Atlanta Streetcar.
About 300,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday.
Consider that as an outpouring of appreciation for Children’s staffers, who according to Tara Newton, seem to really “get it” when it comes to the young charges in their care and their families.
“Most every person Luci encounters looks her in the eye, speaks to her, genuinely shows an interest in her and listens to her,” she said. “That is how you truly connect with a child and gain their trust.
“[Children’s] also make great efforts to be there for the parents. … They understand that as a parent watching your child go through these medical procedures can be terrifying, but we are not allowed to show it because we have to put on a strong face for our kids.”