Joyful Heart in the News

Taking on Goliath

November 29th, 2011
Holly Houston

When 18-year-old Ella Burnside—event chair and champion of a cause shared by women everywhere—took the podium at Taking on Goliath October 20, she answered the question on everyone’s minds: No. She is not a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse. How this fierce young dynamo came to embody the biblical David slaying the giant began, of all places, in a classroom!

A school project was the catalyst for what can arguably be called Ella’s crusade and is the core work of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit spearheaded by Mariska Hargitay. The national organization works to end domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse and offers a crucial element in short order among victims and survivors – hope. “The road back is hard, yet there is a road,” said Joyful Heart’s Executive Director Maile Zambuto via a video appearance.

A “Hallmark” story to be sure if the topic wasn’t so grim. The nature of the subject matter belies Ella’s joy. Ella is no goth girl. She is a pretty, vibrant teenager who her dad, Chris Burnside, a lawyer at Frost Brown Todd, says “has a love for people.” When asked how he encourages her he said, “We stay out of the way.” Indeed.

The Joyful Heart Foundation hosts a survivors’ retreat in Hawaii that for some may be the key that opens the door to a life that allows them not to live in constant fear. Symbolic of the Joyful Heart Foundation’s mission is jewelry made by Me & Ro and inscribed with the word “fearlessness,” ostensibly to remind victims and survivors to take back their power. Me and Ro and Philosophy, the skincare line whose best sellers are a fragrance named “Amazing Grace” and a skin salve named “Hope in a Jar,” donate a portion of proceeds of sales of specific items to the Foundation.

One of Ella’s goals and that of the foundation is to “shed light into the darkness” and cast out the stigma attached potentially to being a survivor. That mission could not have a better spokesperson. In closing, Ella said if we all chose to do what was easy, we would choose silence. “Break the silence,” she said.

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