Runway to Success

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • July 02, 2012 01:39 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - One of the most anticipated events each summer, the WVU Classic, presented by MedExpress, highlights the Mountaineer Athletic Club’s fundraising schedule.

The two-day event, held in Charleston, includes tennis and golf tournaments featuring WVU celebrities, as well as a pairings party and an awards reception.

The event unofficially kicks off each year with a fashion show. Once held to entertain Mountaineer coaches’ wives as their husbands golfed and mingled, the show, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary on June 7, is now open to the general public and has become one of the Classic’s main fundraising arms. All funds raised at the show, held this year at the Charleston Marriott Town Center, go directly to the WVU student-athlete scholarship fund.

While the fashion show annually features former Mountaineer student-athletes, this year’s event included a model with no previous ties to WVU. She was simply a girl with a bucket list objective that needed completed.

“I have been wanting to model for awhile, so it was nice to finally get that experience,” said Chelsey Light, a 2011 graduate of Oak Hill High currently living in Edmond. “I like taking pictures, and I watch a lot of America’s Next Top Model. I like being around that stuff.”

She was brought into the Classic’s fold through Donna Edmondson, a photographer friend that had previously worked on a personal project for Light and her family. Edmondson worked with the MAC’s Charleston-based contact, Margaret Ann Simpson, and Light was soon working with local boutiques, picking out the outfits she would wear down the runway.

The modeling experience offered Light a fantastic distraction from the private battle she has been waging for close to a year. On July 19, 2011, she was diagnosed with desmoplastic small-round-cell tumor, a rare, cancerous disease that commonly occurs in the abdomen. She is nearing the end of treatment cycles, which have included radiation and chemotherapy at Boston Children’s Hospital and a three-month stay at Hope Lodge, also in Boston.

“It hasn’t been that bad,” said Light, who postponed enrollment into college to concentrate on her health. “I wasn’t really sick during the entire process, which was good. I’ve been really lucky.”

While Light’s recovery process has been relatively smooth, she cannot say the same about backstage at the fashion show.

“There were just a whole lot of people in a really small space,” she laughed. “We were running around and trying to get changed without knocking each other over or stepping on each others’ clothes. There weren’t any serious mishaps, but people kept misplacing shoes or accessories. There was some missing jewelry at one point, too.”

Craziness aside, Light says she enjoyed her time on the runway, despite a few nerves.

“I was afraid I was going to trip, but it wasn’t too bad,” she explained. “I just tried not to look at everyone in the crowd and concentrate on the walls in front of me.”

In addition to achieving a life-long goal, Light also was able to meet several former Mountaineers, including current assistant director of football operations, Quincy Wilson, and former quarterback Rasheed Marshall. Like the former student-athletes, she hopes to return to the runway again next year.

“I definitely will look to do more (modeling) in the future,” Light said. “It was really fun!”

Armed with a renewed confidence, Light now turns her attention to her last treatment cycle and an exciting adventure on the horizon – a family trip to Hawai’i, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Set for some time near the end of July, Light’s anticipation climbs with every passing day.

“We’re going to Maui for my wish trip, and I am so excited,” she enthused. “Hawai’i has always been a place I’ve wanted to travel to. When I found out I had cancer, we were on a family vacation. I wanted to end this whole process with a vacation, since it started on one.”

Following the trip, Light plans to enroll as a freshman at West Liberty University.

“I’m so excited to go to school and have the freshman experience,” she said. “It will probably be a rough adjustment because I haven’t had to do anything for very long, but I’m ready. I’ll just have to do what I have to do.”

Light should have little trouble making the adjustment to college. After tackling cancer and the runway with vigor and determination, she has proven that she can overcome any obstacle thrown her direction.