By DANNY RESTIVO
Kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart believes anyone can overcome life’s most difficult obstacles.
“We aren’t defined by want happens to us in life, but, really, what we choose to do with what happens to us in life,” she said.
Smart shared her message Wednesday night with 650 women at the first Healthy Woman Expo and Dinner at the Mahoning Country Club.
In 2002, the then 14-year-old Smart was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City. While she was held captive, she was sexually abused and forced to marry. The nine-month search for Smart garnered international media attention until she was found in Sandy, Utah, nearly 18 miles from her home.
Arlie Wolford of Howland came to the expo after she heard Smart was speaking. She said she followed the story religiously in 2002, and called her daughter the moment Smart was found. Wolford said she admires the way Smart has carried herself after the ordeal.
“Whenever she was on TV, she always had grace, dignity and a smile on her face,” she said.
Michelle Candella of Hubbard also remembers following the news stories. She shared Wolford’s respect for the advocate against child abduction.
“Everything she’s done and overcome, and then being able to live a normal life, is admirable,” she said.
During her speech, Smart, now an ABC News commentator, shared some of her thoughts during the first moments of her kidnapping.
“There came a point in my kidnapping that I made a decision, and it’s been one of the most important decisions in my life — I made the decision to survive no matter what,” she said. “I knew I could survive, whether it was three days or 30 years, I would survive.”
She also talked about living a life without anger after her captor, Brian David Mitchell, had abused her.
“The best punishment I could give him was to be happy and to follow my dreams and do whatever I wanted to do, and follow those things I wanted to do,” she said. “The important part was not to let him steal any more of my life than he already had.”
The Healthy Woman Expo, which was sponsored by ValleyCare Health Systems of Ohio, also offered health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and bone density that were open to the public before Smart’s one-hour speech.
The ValleyCare Health Systems of Ohio chapter of Healthy Woman launched last October and includes more than 2,000 members. The organization focuses on helping women with informed decisions about health.