Storm threatens local man's emotional return home

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. -- While most people run away from a hurricane, Ryan Light is sprinting towards it -- or, at least, he's trying to.

"I have mixed emotions about going back," Light said, from his home in Maple Valley. "I always said I would never go back there."

Light spent his childhood in the Long Island City and Corona neighborhoods of New York City -- both areas dealing with the remnants of Hurricane Sandy on Monday night. With his television tuned to storm coverage, and a scheduled trip to New York Thursday, Light shared the story about his past, and why he has deep-seated feelings about a returning to his hometown -- now a disaster zone -- this weekend.

"(My stepdad) was -- how can I say this?" he asks. "He was tied to 'organizations' at that time. He was in the mafia. I was seen but not heard."

Light's mom remarried when he was 8-years old, and he spent the next decade in what he describes as an abusive home. He managed to be the first in his family to graduate from high school and he joined the Army, later finding himself fleeing New York for Dallas and then Seattle. It was an introduction to a successful businessman -- through the woman who would later become his wife -- that Light realized what he had been missing as a child.

"I saw the kind of lifestyle that I wanted," Light said. "He talked about getting an education. He talked about being a good father, being a good worker. Being mentored and coached in that capacity has allowed me to put the past behind me and put the future in front of me."

Light, a father of four, decided to run the New York City marathon on Sunday, raising money for locally-based charity Go For Hope. The non-profit works to bring mentors -- and education -- to children in Central America.

"I don't know where I'd be today (if I had mentors at a young age). The sky would've been the limit for me," he said.

The race course takes runners through Long Island City -- the streets Light knew at a young age. But with streets flooded and airports closed, Light isn't sure he will even make it to New York to run the race he's trained for since March.

"I want to run it because I want to leave those pasts behind me, and this is a part of closing those pasts," he said. "Part of me is scared to do that but part of me needs to do that."

Other charities, like locally-based World Vision are also running in to the eye of the storm to help.

The Federal Way-based non-profit has hundreds of blankets, food kits, and flood cleanup gear ready to hand out as soon as the storm passes, even though their New York City warehouse was in a flood zone.

"We have an office in the Bronx, NY that was evacuated today," said Celine Calvet, office manager for the group. "but we have those supplies there ready. They're up high so that the water that's already being seen in the streets isn't going to reach them."

"We pray that the news reports that the storm that's going through won't do as much damage as they're calling for," she added, "but if in case the damage is great, we want to get food, we want to get blankets (to families) to make sure they're warm."

Light's flight hasn't been canceled -- yet. He hopes somehow to make it for Sunday's race, and down the long path towards closure.

"I know the likelihood of this happening (is unclear) but I still have hopes that it will still go on," he said. "Even thinking about it today does strike up a lot of emotion in me, so it is a way to kind of confront those demons and push through."