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'Little Mermaid' to appear at Fourth of July parade on Friday

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - When Delaney Tualls was told she could never be a mermaid, Collette-Remsen Hughes put her in a mermaid tail and took on parades.It’s hard to look at Delaney Tualls and seriously think she couldn’t be a mermaid.

In fact, the 6-year-old looks just like Disney’s Little Mermaid, with her flowing blonde hair and blue-green eyes as deep as the ocean. What’s more, she’s a great swimmer.

But when Delaney told her kindergarten class that her life’s goal was to be a mermaid, her teacher told her that wouldn’t happen. She even gave Delaney a chance to change her mind.

“I told her no,” Delaney says. “I don’t think there’s anything else I want to do.”by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - When Delaney Tualls was told she could never be a mermaid, Collette-Remsen Hughes put her in a mermaid tail and took on parades.

Fortunately, her dilemma reached the attention of the highest possible authority — Lake Oswego native Collette Remsen-Hughes, the mermaid-in-chief of a volunteer organization called Oregon Mermaids, who was outraged that someone, however well-intentioned, would douse cold ocean water on Delaney’s dream.

After all, Remsen-Hughes has been a successful mermaid for the past several years.

She and her fellow mermaids are involved in a variety of community outreach events, including the Mermaid Tales program at the Portland Aquarium that puts a fun focus on conservation education.

And as far as Remsen-Hughes is concerned, any little girl who wants to be a mermaid absolutely can be a mermaid.

“So many kids are told you can’t do this and you can’t do that,” she says. “I put Delaney in a mermaid tail, and she didn’t want to get out of it.”

Remsen-Hughes and Delaney have appeared at several special events, where they were mobbed by hundreds of people (including many mermaid wannabes) who wanted to have their photos taken with the mermaids. At the Rose Festival Junior Parade in Portland, Delaney got to ride on the Oregon Mermaids float — a giant blue clam shell that Remsen-Hughes had worked her mermaid tail off to build.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: PETER GREENE - Closeup of a mermaid. Delaney Tualls has stopped smiling since she put on her mermaid tail for the first time.

On Friday, Delaney will be on the float again, this time heading down A Avenue — surrounded by an entourage of mermaids, pirates and sea creatures, of course — in Lake Oswego’s Fourth of July parade.

For Remsen-Hughes, it’s all about making dreams come true. She’s put mermaid tails on little girls who, on the surface, at least, have much less chance of being mermaids than Delaney.

These are children who are greatly challenged by severe illnesses or disabilities and are often unable to walk or swim.

“What keeps me going are these kids and what they go through,” says Remsen-Hughes, who has battled her own physical problems over the years. She’s suffered from chronic pain ever since a van crashed into her vehicle two years ago.

“When you are in constant pain and hurting every day, it is easy to get discouraged with your situation,” she says. “But these children give me the energy to work through the challenges in my own life.”

On Friday, those challenges will no doubt be washed away by the waves of applause from parade watchers in Lake Oswego.

And by the smile on the face of a little girl who now knows that she can be anything she wants to be.

For more information about Oregon Mermaids, go to www.facebook.com/OregonMermaids.

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