Abduction survivor and ABC News contributor, Elizabeth Smart, was the keynote speaker at the Southside Regional Medical Center’s Healthy Woman program last Wednesday.
She gave a message of hope to a crowd of 300-plus women and a handful of men during a program entitled “Overcoming Adversity.” Held at the Fort Lee Officers Club, Smart shared the traumatic events surrounding her kidnapping in 2002, the resulting court case of her captors and her personal healing journey.
“We all have terrible experiences,” she said during the press conference held before the sold-out event. “We only have one life and we should take what life gives us and move on.”
Smart said it is easy to hold yourself in the past. “That because of everything that happened it was so easy to stay in that moment,” adding “You don’t know how strong of an individual you are until you are tested.” Communicating her story and helping women she said, “I have opened doors that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Smart said she is humbled by the people she meets and who she can help make a change in their life. She said her mom helped her turn her life around saying, “My mom said to me, he took nine months of my life away and the best punishment I could ever give him is to be happy and take my life back.”
She talks about how precious life is and how important it is for anyone in an adverse situation to take their life back and follow their dream. “It’s making the most of what time we are given; looking at it [life] at a different angle.” She made the analogy of peanut butter which she has bad memories from. “If you don’t like peanut butter then look at it with chocolate.”
Elizabeth Smart has become an advocate for change related to child abduction, recovery programs and national legislation. She is involved in the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation,” and continues to help the poor. She is an advocate for children and internet crime against child pornography and radKIDS® , which teaches children to make a plan to protect themselves from violence and harm.
Smart’s motivation comes from her experience saying, “I was so hurt and I know how I felt and I don’t want any person to feel that way. We live in such an incredible world and so many good things happen every day.”
The abduction of Elizabeth Smart was one of the most followed child abduction cases of our time. Smart was abducted in 2002 from her bedroom and her captors had controlled her by threatening to kill her and her family if she tried to escape. Fortunately, the police safely returned her to her family after being held prisoner for nine months.
The Healthy Woman event is a national program sponsored by Southside Regional Medical Center. “The program is all about helping women make informed decisions about their health which includes mind, body and spirit,” said Carrie Bilek, manager of Healthy Woman for SRMC. “Bringing someone like Elizabeth Smart here with her message that you can overcome anything and her message of hope, women were very excited when they heard she was coming.” With a sold out crowd she added, “Women in the community wanted to hear her message. We were very lucky to get her here.”
For more information on future Healthy Woman events sponsored by SRMC visit SRMConline.com.