Nationally known kidnapping survivor & child protection - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Nationally known kidnapping survivor & child protection advocate speaks in the Valley

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GIRARD, Ohio - A nationally known kidnapping survivor and child protection advocate was in the Valley Wednesday night to talk about her inspirational story.

Elizabeth Smart spoke in front of a crowd of hundreds of women at the Mahoning County Club. It was part of a women's health expo sponsored by Valley Care Health System.

She told the crowd details of her 2002 abduction when a man took her from her bedroom with a knife at her throat. It was the beginning of a nine month long nightmare for her.

"There came a point in my kidnapping that I made a decision and it's been one of the most important decisions of my life. I made the decision to survive no matter what. Once I made that decision; that I would do anything that I had to stay alive that's what made the difference for me," Smart said.

Now she is focusing her life to making a difference in the lives of others. She created the Elizabeth Smart foundation which has partnered with rad Kids which stands for resisting aggression defensively. She would like to get the program into every elementary school in the nation.

"It's a child empowerment program that doesn't just teach children what to do; it helps them to internalize, how to react in a dangerous situation no matter what it is. It helps them make a plan, helps them be prepared," Smart said.

Today Elizabeth is optimistic and happy, especially since becoming an advocate for change related to child abduction recovery programs and legislation.

She decided early on not to let what happened to her ruin her life.

Smart said, "The best punishment I could give him is to be happy and to follow my dreams and do what I wanted to do find those things that are important to me. I think that's true for each one of us. That was probably my second best decision in life; be happy, move forward, not allow him to steal any more of my life from me than he already had."

"We aren't defined by what happens to us in life, but really what we choose to do with what happens to us in life," Smart added.

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