Her story gripped the nation in 2002 when she was abducted from her bedroom in the middle of the night and held prisoner. Nine months later, she was found and returned home to her parents. Because of her traumatic experience, she used her story to push for safety legislation and advocated for change in child abduction cases, recovery programs, and national legislation. She shared her personal story with the world to help others who experience trauma navigate the difficult road that follows as well as advocating for vigilance and preventative measures.

Now a wife and mother, Elizabeth Smart will be in Kokomo sharing her story of resilience, hope, and overcoming trauma at the Family Service Association (FSA) of Howard County Prevent Child Abuse Annual Conference at Oakbrook Church (3409 S 200 W) on April 10. 

Those interested in hearing Smart speak need to reserve their free seat at pcaconference.eventbrite.com. While other speakers at the conference have sold out, there are still seats available for Smart’s session that will begin at 10:30 a.m.

“We’re really excited because we have several different speakers who I think will be very good but to bring someone of her recognition into Kokomo and to have sponsors to provide that for us is a win-win. Her story is about hope and resilience and moving forward. We have so many workers that work with kids who have been through trauma and I think it will help them realize that they do make a difference,” said Barb Hilton, Director of Prevent Child Abuse FSA.

The event is free to registered guests, thanks in part to the title sponsors Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Mayor’s Council Against Substance Abuse Howard County and the Center Township Trustee.

“We’ve worked really hard for a lot of years to keep this a free event for the public,” said Hilton. “Because of those three, we were able to keep this a free conference and we are very grateful for that.”

The conference will host speakers Jim McClelland, Shirley Dubois, Dr. Jacquelyn Thomas-Miller, Jamie Johnson, and Smart who will give commentary on topics ranging from the current opioid crisis, tobacco and vaping and the dangers they present to the youth, social and emotional competence of children and protective factors in preventing child abuse and neglect, and life stories of overcoming addiction and abuse.

“We try to drive home that prevention is so important for everybody. It’s one of those things that is sometimes harder to measure the impact,” Hilton said. “The prevention is so much less expensive and agonizing. It’s one of the things that has grown and we can provide the education of the youth workers to take back and use at their jobs.”