SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center held the 12th annual Hearing Children’s Voices Gala at Cobb Galleria on Saturday evening.
More than 500 people attended the event, themed “Boots and Black Tie,” and they raised $196,000 through live and silent auctions with items donated from various retailers, including the Cumberland Diamond Exchange.
“We were ecstatic!” said SafePath Executive Director Jinger Robins. “To be able to have the support from the community with community dollars allows SafePath to be so much stronger because we are not dependent on just grant dollars from the state and federal government.”
Funds will go to providing services to children and families, such as crisis intervention, therapy sessions and child abuse prevention training.
This year’s event also allowed the nonprofit to recognize Nickolas Smith, 22, by giving him the Hearing Children’s Voices Award.
“We wanted to honor him for his incredible ability to overcome a tragedy that with the support and love of family and outreach from the community that they need,” Robins said.
Smith’s mother Karmen Smith was murdered by Waseem Daker on Oct. 23, 1995. The young man, who was 5 at the time, was stabbed 18 times and survived.
Daker was convicted in Cobb County last year and sentenced to life in prison, plus 47 and a half years.
“Nickolas said that each stab wound is a reminder of the almost 18 years of his life that he lost between his mother’s murder and Daker’s conviction,” Robins said. “He also said that we have to remember to laugh because life is a gift.”
Thirteen Delta flight attendants, all in uniform, were also recognized for volunteering their time at the gala to honor Karmen Smith, who was their co-worker nearly 20 years ago.
The event was co-chaired by Cobb residents Judi and Bob Snelson and Patsy and Reynold Jennings.
Bob Snelson, who serves as the SafePath board president, said this is the second year he and his wife have chaired the gala that was sponsored by Balfour Beatty Construction in Atlanta.
“It was a super time,” said Snelson. “I believe it was the best gala we’ve had.”
Snelson said he became involved in SafePath five years ago through his employer, Marietta Board of Lights and Water.
Snelson also said Smith was a tremendous individual to have overcome all he did in his young life and applauded him for being able to tell his story in front of such a large crowd.
“It’s just a wonderful story to know that somebody can endure all that and come out with a positive outlook on the remainder of his life,” he said.