She has told her story to countless audiences and will do so again in Martinez at a Dec. 15 fundraising banquet for Hope Christian Schools.
Augusta native Ashley Smith will be in Martinez to speak of her harrowing hostage experience with accused Atlanta courthouse slaying suspect Brian Nichols, said Ron Burton, executive director of Hope Christian Schools.
The fundraising banquet will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
Ticket prices range from $40 for individuals to $10,000 for a corporate sponsorship. Tables are being sold at the silver, gold, platinum and corporate levels, with tickets costing $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $10,000, respectively.
"We have about $25,000 in debt that we are trying to retire," Burton said. "This event is specifically to retire that debt."
Hope Christian Schools, which is currently housed in the River Watch Community Church education building, enrolls nearly 60 students. It employs four full-time and two part-time teachers.
"We are a Christian alternative school," said Burton, adding that Hope Christian is one of the five charter members of the National Association of Street Schools, an organization that caters to at-risk youth in a Christian environment. "We're the only school like this is in the CSRA and one of about 40 in the United States."
Students expelled from public, private and alternative schools are eligible for admission to Hope Christian Schools.
"What do you do when a 14- or 15-year-old is expelled from the traditional school?" Burton asked. "Nearly 80 percent of our graduates go on to college. That's a great thing to see when they otherwise would not have graduated or would have been incarcerated."
Hope Christian Schools has played host to an annual golf tournament for the past three years. Those tournaments have largely been the school's only source of fundraising, Burton said. Nearly 70 percent of the school's expenses are met by tuition.
"I guess to get to the level where you can have a nice one, there's a support base and donor base that we had to establish," said Burton when asked why the school hadn't previously held a fundraising banquet. "Through our relationship with WAFJ, the local Christian radio station, we learned that Ashley Smith was entering the speaking circuit. She has said she has a heart to help the local missions."
After contact was made with Smith, it was learned that she has a nephew enrolled in the school, Burton said.
Before she entered the spotlight for her role in getting Nichols to free her after a seven-hour hostage ordeal and leading police to him, Smith led a relatively quiet life in Duluth, Ga. Smith retreated to Duluth from Martinez following the 2001 stabbing death of her husband, Mack Smith. She has shared her experiences as a drug addict, but says she has now regained control of her life, vowing to return to drug recovery after the promotion of her newly released book, Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero.
In her book, Smith details how she shared her faith in Jesus Christ with Nichols and read passages of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life to the man accused of rape and the March 11 shooting rampage that killed a judge and three other people.
People interested in attending the banquet can call the school at 863-8322 for tickets.
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