March 27, 2016

D75_1600Bringing the Easter message home to 800-plus area residents, best-selling author and inspirational speaker Elizabeth Smart said that the power of prayer is real and can transform lives in astonishing ways.

As keynote speaker for the YMCA’s 22nd Annual Celebration of Prayer, Smart began by thanking everyone who prayed for her during the 2002 kidnapping, which captivated the nation.

At age 14, Smart was taken from the bedroom of her Utah home by a stranger who claimed her as his “wife.” She was then held captive and emotionally and sexually abused her for nearly a year. Believing at first that she’d never survive – and often praying she wouldn’t – Smart found the strength to endure by remembering the love of God and her family.

DSC_9808“No matter what happened to me, no matter how broken I felt, I knew my family and almighty father would always love me,” Smart said. From that point on, she said she found the will to survive.

Now 28, married and attending Brigham Young University, Smart is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, My Story. Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she also promotes the national AMBER Alert, as well as legislation to protect children.

D75_1249“For more than two decades, the Y of Central Florida has been uniting our community and strengthening the Y’s Christian mission through Celebration of Prayer,” said Dan Wilcox, YMCA President/CEO.

“As we usher in the Easter season, Elizabeth Smart reminds us that prayer can help us overcome any adversity and lead fuller, more purposeful lives.”

Other Celebration of Prayer speakers included Michael Griffin, Vice D75_1530President of Public Affairs for Florida Hospital, which was the event’s sponsor, as well as Orange County Sheriff Sheriff Jerry Demings, Osceola Supervisor of Elections Mary Jane Arrington and U.S. Congressman Daniel Webster.