There She Goes

Miss Delaware hits Vegas, a self-described farm girl models for fashion’s stars, the UD dance team eyes a national championship, and more.

Photograph by Keith Mosher


There She Goes
Could Miss Delaware be the next Miss America? Just ask her about tractors…

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What happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas. If you’re Brittany Dempsey, Miss Delaware 2007, you want the nation to know what happens there.

Dempsey, of Dover, will compete in the 83rd Miss America Pageant January 26 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Her platform is children’s health, which she based on the national Coordinated Approach to Child Health Program. The agenda promotes physical activity and healthy eating for elementary school aged children. Dempsey wants to implement CATCH in Delaware schools.

But first she has to ace the swimsuit competition. The Miss America Organization may be the world’s largest provider of scholarships for young women, but looks still count. Dempsey has that part locked, and she’ll probably wow the judges with a jazz dance routine. But she’s banking on her mind to clinch the title.

“Brains are beautiful,” she says. “People think pageants are all about beauty, but that is not the case. We’re the type of women who care about each other, and our faith is what leads what we do.”

Dempsey was Teen Miss Dover in 2002 and Teen Miss Camden-Wyoming in 2003. The Miss Delaware designation earned her a four-year scholarship at the University of Delaware, where she currently studies.

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And study she will to prepare for the pageant’s question-and-answer session, which is televised live.

“I should be OK there,” Dempsey says. “But I live on  a farm. So if they happen to ask me how to drive a tractor or milk a cow, I’m golden.”         —Maria Hess


Woodin on the runway (left) and showing her state
pride while killing time backstage (right).
Photograph by Patrick McMullan Company


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Model Behavior
A Hockessin farm girl makes the world’s top designers look good.

“It all happened so fast,” says Melody Woodin, who, in three years, went from mucking stalls on her parents’ farm in Hockessin to walking the runway for John Galliano at the Castle of Versailles. (You know—the one in France.)

“I grew up a tomboy,” says the 6-foot, blonde, blue-eyed A.I. du Pont High grad. “I openly admit I knew nothing about fashion. When you’re playing high school sports, you’re not concerned with skinny jeans and designer labels.”

But all it took was a trip to the Barbizon agency in Philadelphia to turn her into a globetrotting high-fashion model.

A competition in Philly catapulted her to New York, where she caught the attention of agents from Milan, Paris and Manhattan.

Now 21, she’s walked for such heavyweight designers as Badgley Mischka, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Imitation of Christ, Monique Lhuillier and Giorgio Armani.

And, of course, Galliano.

“You can’t even call John Galliano a show,’” Woodin says. “It’s not even close. The feeling he creates, not just with the clothes, but through music, props, extras—it’s a wonderland, out of a dream.”

Woodin’s life wasn’t always so posh.

“I was always so tall and thin, I hated it,” Woodin says. “My poor mother would get tests done on me because she thought I had some disease.”

An average day for Woodin is anything but. She’s either shooting—which can happen anywhere in the world (she “bounces around Europe” and adores Argentina)—or wandering Manhattan on castings.

“It’s a job, just like anything else,” she says. “I work really hard, and really well.”

Before you scoff at a model’s “hard work,” consider this:

“Sitting in makeup for four hours, walking around in 7-inch heels and 50-pound gowns, celebrities coming in and out—it’s not easy. Sometimes I’m anything but calm,” she says. “Backstage is hectic. People are yelling, barking orders, and photographers are everywhere. But as soon as I get on the runway, I empty my mind and breathe.”

Woodin thinks she’s got a few years of “model life” left in her.

“I’m no top girl like Giselle, but I’m fortunate enough to have some big names back me. I’m hoping to take my career into a new direction eventually.”

And in her free time?

She mucks the stalls, of course.

—Amy Kates



Solid Gold (and Blue)
UD’s dance squad eyes a national title.

Anyone who thinks college dance teams are about eyeliner and Spandex hasn’t seen the University of Delaware Blue Hen Dance Team.

So here’s your chance. Currently second in the nation, UD will compete this month in the 2008 Universal Cheerleaders Association/Universal Dance Association College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships at Walt Disney World.

This contest separates the serious athletes from the pretenders. Though UD’s 15-member team took top honors at the Hip Hop National Championship in 2005 and has enjoyed an 11-year stretch in the nation’s top seven, winning this competition would be a major coup.

UD will be one of 24 teams in Division I. It will compete in the Jazz Dance and Hip Hop categories. The squad’s main threat? California State Fullerton—as it is most years. “They’re really good,” says UD head coach Nicole Daliessio-Zehnder.

The team performs at all home football and basketball games, as well as university and community events. Of the 60 most difficult sports, cheerleading is ranked No. 52 by ESPN. It may not be boxing (No. 1), but competitive dancers and some cheerleaders often compete at the same athletic level as Olympic gymnasts.

“This year’s team is versatile, extremely talented and highly motivated,” says Daliessio-Zehnder. “I wholeheartedly believe that this is our year to shine and come home with a national championship title and trophy.”

Check it out on ESPN January 18-20.

                                                              —Maria Hess


This stylish building in Glasgow is meant to prove
a point—that it’s full speed ahead for Air Liquide.
Photograph by Don Pearse Photographs


Small American Town, Big Time European Architecture

A new building in the Glasgow Business Center is so neat looking, it’s hard to believe the only thing inside is hot air.

The futuristic, 83,000 square-foot building, with its curvilinear canopy and sweeping glass walls, seems more like famed architect Frank O. Gehry’s art museum in Bilbao, Spain, than an industrial site.

Yet the structure serves as a research and development site for Air Liquide, a French company that supplies gasses to various refineries and manufacturers around the world.

Making that process seem cool fell on architectural firm Bernardon Haber Holloway of Kennett Square.

“The challenge they gave to us was to make something very striking and that had a good connection to the natural surroundings,” says Kerry Haber, a principal in the firm. “The soaring canopy is almost like a bird. The idea was to show speed and motion, because Air Liquide is very active in research and pushing ahead.”

Inside the building, an expansive main street runs the length of the facility, connecting the lobby to conference rooms, a café, office areas and a knowledge center.

“We have this long, curving glass wall,” Haber says. “That way, natural light comes through and it adheres to the surrounding natural environment.”

The project received high marks from Buildings magazine, which awarded it a Citation of Excellence for New Construction earlier this year.

The building houses transfer employees from Air Liquide’s Chicago site and is visited by clients from around the world. Such a striking building is hoped to inspire innovation and soaring creativity.

Just like a bird. Or is it a plane?                                                          

—Matt Amis



Feel the Rush
Hoops star Khadijah Rushdan talks anything but roundball.

Khadijah Rushdan left Delaware last year as one of the bluest blue chippers in state history. At St. Elizabeth High School, the 5-foot-9 guard set the state high school girl’s basketball record for points scored with 2,414. She’s been first-team this and all-state that more times than she can count. Delaware Today polled Khadijah, now in her first year at Rutgers University, on a number of pop topics and Delaware miscellany.

One word about the season: Excitement

On her iPod: Ne-Yo and J. Holiday

Best restaurant: Hibachi, for shrimp and salmon with fried rice

Shoe size: 11

Spends New Years: With a big party

Road trip essential: iPod 

Hunkiest celeb: Chris Brown

Favorite athlete: Michael Jordan

Gatorade or Powerade: Gatorade

Teammate misconceptions about Delaware: “They think we all live on farms.”

TV show she can’t live without…: “Law and Order”                                         —Matt Amis


Robert Bruner is a well known donor at the local blood bank.

Paybacks are Swell
A Newark man makes the blood donation hall of fame.

Robert Bruner is lucky to be alive. Countless others are fortunate that he lived.

Bruner broke both arms and lost an eye when he flew over the handlebars of his motorcycle and his head smashed through the roof of the pickup truck that pulled in front of him 11 years ago. He spent two months in the hospital and received 14 pints of blood.

When he recovered, Bruner became a platelet donor with the Blood Bank of Delmarva.

“Fourteen people I’ll never know gave so that I could live,” says Bruner, 50, of Newark. “I swore to myself that I’d at least give back what I got.”

Bruner covered his blood debt—and then some.

He is the third and youngest Blood Bank of Delmarva member to make 200 platelet donations. In September, Bruner became only the second local Blood Bank member inducted into the Fenwal Blood Donation Hall of Fame. Fenwal Inc. is one of the world’s largest suppliers of transfusion technology. Only 13 people are added to the hall each year.

Bruner had been a whole blood donor since 1992, but chose to focus on platelets after his accident. Platelets promote clotting and are used to treat leukemia and other types of cancer. Bruner is allowed to make 24 donations each year, so he visits the blood bank every two weeks for a couple of hours.

“I sat with an IV in my arm for two months,” he says. “I think I can take two hours.”

Bruner figures that, as of now, National Blood Donor month, he’ll reach the 300-donation plateau in almost four years. His goal is to make 1,400 donations.

Bruner is chasing Earle Walker, a fellow Blood Bank of Delmarva member and a hall of famer. Walker has made more than 450 donations. “He’s about six and a half years ahead of me,” Bruner says.

During Bruner’s induction ceremony, Walker worked the room, checking on just how many donations each person had made.

“Whoever dreamed blood donating would become a competitive sport?” Bruner says. “With that kind of competition, only the rest of the world benefits.”               —Drew Ostroski




The Hills Have Highs
Wax those runners. Herein, five hills for sledding thrills.

Frank Masley knows sledding.

The New York Times once called him “the best male luger the United States has ever produced.” He carried the U.S. flag into the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo and slid to a combined 10 men’s singles and doubles luge national championship crowns.

One would think Masley could rattle off dozens of prime sledding spots from around his home state. Surely the man has memories of sliding down majestic, white hills at breakneck speeds.

Uh, maybe not.

“I think the highest hill we had was 4 feet,” says Masley, who grew up in Chestnut Hill Estates near Ogletown. “But I guess that’s what made me want to get into luge. It made me want to go higher.”

Nowadays Masley takes his three kids to Brandywine Creek State Park. “The kids always want to go there,” he says. “That’s about as good as we have around here.”

Looking for a hill near you? Here are five.

Rockford Park The Wilmington landmark, crowned by its famous 100-year-old water tower, has all the ingredients for prime sledding: large open spaces, rolling hills and some amazing views of the city.

Glasgow Regional Park This park-in-progress near Bear offers a 2.6-mile walking loop, and a skateboard park is on the way. In 2004, a rough-graded sledding hill was built. It ain’t big, but it’s legal.

Walter S. Carpenter State Park To the west of White Clay Creek is Carpenter Park in Newark, with hills that slope gently down to the valley. One piece of bad news: The steepest hills are also heavily wooded. For a long, smooth ride free of obstructions, start immediately south of the main parking lot.

Freeman Bridge The embankments that gird this span over the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in Lewes yield some steep, fast—albeit short—rides. But this baby’s not exactly street legal. Poach at your own risk, but keep it on the down low.

Bandstand Hill at Battery Park in New Castle, along the Delaware River at the foot of Third Street, provides a surprisingly decent hill in an otherwise flat area.              

—Matt Amis


Mellany Armstrong shows off
her Edward R. Murrow Award.
Photograph by Amanda Waide



Good Night and Good Luck
A WDEL crackerjack brings home broadcasting gold.

When The Radio-Television News Directors Association presented its 2007 national Edward R. Murrow Awards at a glitzy affair in New York City on October 15, the usual suspects stepped up. There was CNN for its coverage of the Middle East conflict, “Dateline NBC” for its London terror plot story, and ABC’s Brian Ross for the Mark Foley scandal.

Then there was WDEL’s Mellany Armstrong, who took the prize for her five-part series “From Fat to Fit: Childhood Obesity in Delaware.”

“I’m still in shock,” Armstrong says. “You’re in a room with people you admire, then you suddenly realize, wow, I’m actually part of the whole thing.”

The Murrow is the broadcast industry’s gold medal. “But Mellany does excellent work every day,” says WDEL station manager Michael Reath, “and she’s particularly adept at in-depth reporting and long-format pieces.”

WDEL listeners know that Armstrong is more than a good reporter. Unlike many morning hosts, who are well versed in programmed pablum, Armstrong tells informative stories in minutes—sometimes 60 seconds—a talent that takes years to master.

This year she’ll produce a long-format piece on Delaware history and will continue her popular “Delaware Stories,” which airs Thursday mornings.

Armstrong has won many awards, including a recent nod from the National Federation of Press Women for best anchor. But nothing tops a Murrow—or the party.

“I was a little star struck,” Armstrong says. “You see these people, like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and (ABC correspondent) Erin Hayes all the time on TV and suddenly you’re having cocktails with them.”

—Maria Hess


Illustration by Tom LaBaff


Toll Free? No More
Caution to habitual toll runners: If you’re being hunted down for accruing more than $1,000 in unpaid tolls, you’re busted, thanks to cameras on toll roads throughout the state. If you’ve only faltered a few times, there’s always the possibility of sweet talking officers with compelling rationale, such as the following:

I thought E-ZPass meant you pass more easily.

I was mesmerized by the book-on-tape of Joe Biden’s (Rudy Giuliani’s, Frank Rizzo’s, J. Edgar Hoover’s) autobiography.

I was writing down the license plate number of the scofflaw in front of me who ran the toll.

I’m late for my Driver of the Year award ceremony.

I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Delaware House of Representatives.                               

—Maria Hess


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