"Life is great and I'm so glad to be where I am right now," said Elizabeth Smart before speaking to a crowd of 1,500 in a downtown Austin ballroom.
The 25 year old abduction survivor refuses to let her 2002 kidnapping define her. Now married and finishing her degree she's advocating for children through her foundation.
Smart was taken at knifepoint from her Utah home, essentially vanishing that night. She was 14 years old at the time and would spend the next nine months with Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Both are behind bars.
"I remember being so scared," she said from the podium. "I will never, ever, ever forget how I felt. I felt so broken," she recalled.
She's speaking out about her ordeal in hopes of raising awareness and providing hope for others. Local non-profit Helping Hand Home invited Smart to speak at its annual Champions for Children awards luncheon.
"During my kidnapping I saw the very worst of humanity but since that point I've met people and worked with them and I've seen the very best in humanity," said Smart.
Ted Keyser is the executive director of Helping Hand Home. "It was important to bring Elizabeth because in a sense there are parallels to what children in foster care go through and how her faith was tested and her resiliance to survive abuse and neglect," said Keyser.
Smart recently published 'My Story' a detailed account of her kidnapping, missed chances to escape and her rescue.
"I'm so glad that by sharing my story I can make a difference and reach out to other survivors and people who need a little extra hope," Smart said.
Her message of hope and determination to survive resonates with the work the non-profit does.
"We want people to know there is hope. Great hope for tomorrow and that's what Elizabeth represents to us," Keyser said.