Weatherford Democrat

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September 3, 2012

Healthy Woman group brings Elizabeth Smart to Weatherford

WEATHERFORD — As families empathized with Elizabeth Smart’s family when the then-14-year-old was kidnapped in 2002, then rejoiced in 2003 when she was finally identified and released from her captors, there was yet a part of the story that most did not know.

That part was how Smart would carry on afterward.

Weatherford Regional Medical Center’s Healthy Woman program is bringing Smart to Weatherford so that she can tell her story about overcoming adversity. The inspirational speech will be a part of the fifth anniversary Healthy Woman event, which includes a health fair with door prizes and giveaways Sept. 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. and dinner where Smart will speak from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Southwest Ford, 3000 Fort Worth Highway. Dinner tickets are $25 and may be purchased at www.WeatherfordRegional.com/HealthyWoman.

Healthy Woman, a program that has chapters nationwide, culls speakers from all walks of life, said Emily Lewis, marketing director for WRMC. Rather than bring in a humorous or reality TV speaker for the fifth anniversary program, the hospital wanted a speaker who would have more of an impact, Lewis said.

“We really thought Elizabeth Smart just had the most compelling, encouraging and most powerful story,” Lewis said. “She talks about her childhood growing up and then kind of what happened, how she got abducted. She does a beautiful job of describing what happened without getting into the gruesome details.”

In June 2002, Brian David Mitchell broke into the Smart family home and kidnapped Smart at knifepoint. Hours later he had “married” her.

“I heard ‘I hearby seal you to me as my wife before God and all his angels,’” Smart said in a preview of the speech that she gives to groups nationwide.

After the “ceremony,” he proceeded to rape her, she said.

The man that Smart knew as “Emmanuel” — that’s what he’d called himself when he’d worked for the Smart family while he was homeless — not only manipulated her, but others, as well, Smart said. He was able to convince a police officer not to look at Smart’s face. He had convinced Smart, herself, that she wasn’t a worthy human being.

“It made me feel so worthless and so degraded, unclean and unworthy,” Smart said of Mitchell raping her. “How could my family ever love me after that? How could anyone, after that?”

Though it was her intention to leave and run back home as soon as night fell or Mitchell turned away from her, Smart said she felt locked in, trapped.

Now, however, Smart is recently married, works as an ABC News contributor and has helped start the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. The foundation has partnered with radKIDS, a Massachussetts-based program that teaches children how to react defensively to potential abductors or perpetrators. For example, the group notes that they try to teach children to project an attitude and vocalize, “How dare you touch me” rather than “Help me, help me” if they find themselves in dangerous situations.

WRMC has started talks with Weatherford ISD to see about bringing the radKIDS program to local students, Lewis said.

In the meantime, she expects that the 425 tickets to the event will likely sell out by the Sept. 25 event. There are about 100 tickets left right now, she said.

In addition to doctor booths at the health fair, which is free, there will be vendors selling clothing, handbags and more, Lewis said. An extra “freebie” will be tissues on the tables, as Smart’s inspirational and emotional story is sure to bring tears to participants’ eyes.

While Wanda Barzee serves time in a mental health facility — with an expected release date of 2016 — and Mitchell was sentenced to life in federal prison in 2011 after years of trial delays due to his being deemed incompetant to stand trial, Smart notes that she has been able to overcome this most devastaing life event.

“The most important piece of advice I’ve ever been given, throughout my whole experience, throughout my whole life was something my mother told me the day after I returned home,” Smart said. “He has taken nine months of your life that you will never get back but don’t let him another moment.”

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