|Runway model and cancer survivor Anna Zvagelsky of Derry strikes a pose with her son, Ivan, 4, during a break in the action at Sunday’s charity fashion show to support breast cancer research.|
|Jae Mawby, 17, left, and Alanna Driscoll, 16,|
model their duct tape prom dresses.
By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
WINDHAM -- Anna Zvagelsky is no stranger to the catwalk. Just last year she got her start as a fashion runway model, a gig of a lifetime for a young mom still recovering from cancer.
Her return to the runway Sunday — her second big gig — was as much an act of triumph as it was an act of pure, unadulterated fun. She is still in remission and living life to the fullest. The boy at her heels, with the big brown eyes and the purple Calvin Klein shirt, clenching her “survivor bouquet,” is really at the heart of such fundraising efforts.
No one survives cancer just for the hell of it.
“Ivan is 4. He was 2 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Zvagelsky, accepting the outstretched bouquet by leaning down low enough for a peck on the cheek from her No. 1 fan.
Zvagelsky was one of several models who took the stage Sunday for the benefit fashion show and auction, held in conjunction with Windham High School’s SMILES service club.
SMILES — Spreading Meaningful Irreplaceable Life Experiences Selflessly — helped raise $4,000 last year through this event. The goal is to surpass that amount this year, through $10 ticket sales and a slew of silent auction items.
Organizer Donna Bramante InDelicato of Windham said it was a true community effort to get the event off the ground — from students and school administrators, to the many local businesses that donated time, fashions and auction items, small gestures that mean everything to those who are currently in the fight of their lives to beat breast cancer.
She knows because she’s been there and back herself.
“I brought this idea to the SMILES service club last year and they were happy to take it on,” said InDelicato. She has been at the center of fundraising efforts for the Avon Cancer Walk with her own Team BellaDonna, started by her mom, Bobbi Bramante, who organized the team while her daughter was recovering from her first brush with breast cancer.
Highlights of Sunday’s fashion show included a pinklit runway, a contemporary routine by a troupe from the Londonderry Dance Academy, some hunky male models recruited from Windham High School, and a Duct Tape Divas competition, featuring colorful prom dresses fashioned completely of duct tape by students, “Project Runway” style.
Another incentive, beyond their catwalk debut, is the promise of a national $5,000 Duck brand Stuck At Prom scholarship, awarded for the best dress made of duct tape and photographed at the big dance.
Lisa Driscoll of Windham was blown away at the entries her daughter, Alanna Driscoll, 16, and her bestie, Jae Mawby, 17, whipped up for the competition.
“Oh yes, they spent the last two months working out the designs. I kept getting these emergency calls, that I needed to go get some more leopardprint duct tape. Thank god for the Walmart in Derry,” Driscoll said. “It was hysterical.”
Mary Jackson of Hampstead, a cancer survivor, looked fierce on the runway, even without leopard-skin duct tape. Her fashionable black-and-white print top was set off perfectly by the little black dress worn by her granddaughter, Kate Farrell of Windham, who escorted her down the runway.
“I love life and I love my grandchildren — and I’m so happy to be here and to be a survivor,” said Jackson backstage, preparing for a second spin down the catwalk.
Melanie Cullinane, of Boxford, Mass., took her turn on the runway modeling some clothing from GAP. Not only is she a dedicated member of Team BellaDonna, but she wanted to participate in the fashion show to honor her sister, a breast cancer survivor in remission, and her aunt, who she will represent in this year’s “In It To End It” Avon Breast Cancer Walk to be held next month in Boston.
“That’s my story,” said Cullinane. “I’m just happy to be here, to support my sister and my aunt — and all the women out there who are fighting this disease.”