Nikolas Smith, shown here with SafePath executive director Jinger Robins, will share his story at the 12th annual Hearing Children's Voices gala. Chaired by Patsy and Reynold Jennings and Judi and Bob Snelson, the event is planned for 7 p.m. March 9 at the Cobb Galleria Centre with a cocktail hour beginning at 6 p.m. Individual tickets are $150 and table sponsorships start at $1,500. Major sponsors include WellStar Health System and Balfour Beatty Construction. Attire is "boots and black tie optional." For information see safepath.org or call 770-514-6554.
Nickolas Smith was 5 the day he was attacked and his mother was killed. Last fall, as a 22-year-old University of Georgia graduate, he was able to confront the suspect in court. On March 9, he'll share his story at a charity gala to benefit SafePath Children's Advocacy Center.
"I want to try to make SafePath proud," Smith said.
His mother, Delta flight attendant Karmen Smith, was stabbed and strangled on Oct. 23, 1995. Nickolas was attacked when he got home from school and went looking for her. Prosecutors said Waseem Daker killed Karmen Smith and attacked Nickolas because he was obsessed with her upstairs neighbor, Lottie Spencer Blatz.
"I just remember going downstairs to see if my mom was home yet. Waseem grabbed me and started stabbing me," Smith said. "I remember waking up in the hospital."
Daker was convicted of stalking Blatz in 1996 and authorities long suspected him in Karmen Smith's slaying. New DNA technology helped prosecutors make their case and Daker was convicted in September and sentenced to life plus 47 years.
"I felt so relieved," Smith said. "I felt empowered. I was able to tell my side of the story in a way that was able to make a difference."
Years ago, as he recovered physically, SafePath was there to help him heal emotionally. Smith's father, Mike Smith, had coincidentally been involved with SafePath as a member of its board before the attack. When Nickolas returned for services, SafePath felt like a warm, comforting place.
"I felt like I had to mature a lot at that age," he said. "I feel like I’ve been an adult since I was 6 years old."
Smith will share his story at the 12th annual Hearing Children's Voices gala, planned for March 9 at the Cobb Galleria Centre. SafePath executive director Jinger Robins is grateful to have such a powerful ambassador to help explain SafePath's mission.
"When a child comes into the system who has experienced or witnessed abuse, we want to bring them into a comfortable, child-friendly facility," she said. Located in Cobb County's West Park Government Center, SafePath offers a range of services, including clinical examinations, crisis intervention, individual, family and group therapy and caregiver support and education. The organization works closely with law enforcement and social services.
"Our goal is to be there when needed," Robins said. "Children are so resilient when we get them what they need. What you end up is healthy adults, and a healthy society."
Smith reconnected with SafePath before his day in court. Daker represented himself, meaning Smith would be coming face-to-face with him.
"I was feeling really anxious," Smith said. "It was awesome that SafePath was able to reach back out. They were able to hook me up with a therapist."
His goal is for other children to feel the sense of safety and empowerment he was able to gain with SafePath's help.
"A lot of children are abused. A lot of them feel like they don’t have a voice because they’re children," he said. "I feel like SafePath can be their voice."