BOCA RATON, Fla. — Elizabeth Smart was in Boca Raton Tuesday, sharing her story of finding hope after surviving being kidnapped from her home in 2002.
Smart’s story grabbed global attention, and now, she tells it to inspire strength in other survivors.
She was a keynote speaker at a luncheon fundraiser to support Place of Hope.
“It was very welcoming and heartwarming,” Smart said. “When I’m standing up there telling the worst part of my life and being able to feel the support from the audience, and the hope, and feeling like they only want the best for me and that there’s relief and happiness that I survived, that’s what helps me think I can do this, I can share it,” Smart said.
Place of Hope is a non-profit that helps children and families impacted by abuse, neglect, homelessness, and human trafficking.
Smart was just 14-years-old when she was abducted from her home in 2002, withstanding nearly a year of rape and abuse until she was rescued by police.
Her strong faith and knowing she had a loving family, she said, kept her fighting.
“[Knowing] that they would always love me, no matter what, I was able to find the strength to survive, to do whatever it took to survive,” Smart said.
Smart knows many young victims of abuse do not have a loving family to support them. Many become victims of their own family members.
That’s where Place of Hope steps in.
“Always feeling like there’s people out there who support you and can pull you out and people that are truly there that care and love and want to help,” said Cherie Arscott. She is an Angel Mom or an ambassador in the community for Place of Hope.
She says this fundraiser, hosted by the Angel Moms, will help Place of Hope continue to help children.
Dr. Heidi Schaeffer is a board member for Place of Hope and told Smart that her story has helped her personally. “You give hope to so many people that need it,” Dr. Schaeffer told Smart.
She now advocates for children in Tallahassee, saying she wants to make a positive difference in the world.
“I’ve gone through things both in childhood and as an adult that have made me empathize with children,” Dr. Schaeffer said. “Who wants to talk about people hurting kids? The truth is people are hurting kids so why not do something about it and create positive change,” Dr. Schaeffer said.
Now, she also finds motivation through Smart’s courage to speak out.