Elizabeth Smart Delivers a Message of Hope

Photo by Baker Rawlings, Depth of Field photography

Donors, supporters and other community members came together for the Youth Eastside Services fundraiser breakfast in Bellevue on Tuesday, March 13. The Invest in Youth breakfast was held as a benefit for the non-profit organization, which provides counseling, support groups and mental health and substance abuse treatments to children and teenagers.

Keynote speaker Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her home in 2002 at age 14, told her survival story and delivered a message of hope to the audience.

“We can choose to take care of our problems and become happy again or we can ignore them and… let them ruin the rest of our lives,” Smart said. “If we keep making [little] goals, maybe one day we’ll be able to turn around and change the world around us. That’s certainly what I’ve tried to do.”

She described her kidnapping, saying that knowing her parents loved her was what gave her strength. “I realized that just because this man had done this terrible thing didn’t mean I was unworthy,” she said. “I made up my mind in that moment that I’d live and I’d survive. It didn’t matter that this man raped me. It didn’t matter that I was chained to a tree like an animal. I would return to my family and be happy again. And that’s exactly what I did.”

“We all face challenges. We all face hard times,” she continued, emphasizing the importance of setting small goals and healing one step at a time. “Each one of us can do the same thing no matter what our trials are…. We have a choice.”

Other speakers included high school students who had received services from YES, who told their personal stories and shared their success in overcoming problems like abusive or addicted parents. YES Executive Director Patti Skelton-McGougan spoke about the services offered by YES, as well as the trials faced by today’s children.

“Since the school year started in September, here in our Eastside community we’ve lost students to suicide, murder and heroin abuse,” she said. “When these things happen, [YES] mobilizes.”

Redmond mayor John Marchione also showed his support for the organization, urging guests to donate. “The investment you make in youth today could be your doctor in 20 to 30 years,” he said.”

The fundraiser pulled in over $520,000 for the organization and saw a record 1000 guests. Learn more about YES at youtheastsideservices.org.

Blog By Justine McDaniel

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