Trisha Meili, the keynote speaker at Wednesday's Siskin Hospital Possibilities Luncheon, is living proof of the power of rehabilitation.
Meili, known to the world as the "Central Park Jogger," told the story of the near-fatal attack on her 24 years ago in New York City, the severe injuries she suffered and her rehabilitation journey. Brutally beaten, sexually assaulted and left for dead, Meili had injuries so serious that doctors didn't think she'd survive.
And yet six and a half years later, she completed the New York City Marathon in four and a half hours.
"I felt so very proud of the hard work that had gotten me there," she told the crowd of about 700 at the Chattanooga Convention Center. "The fact that I'm able to be with you here this afternoon is evidence that support is powerful."
The event had a lineup of speakers and presentations geared toward this theme of hope, and Meili's appearance was the capstone of the luncheon.
"My message is not of anger or retaliation. My message is one of hope and possibility," Meili said.
Siskin Hospital CEO Robert Main said Meili's story is what rehab is all about.
"It's not our disabilities. It's our abilities," he said. "The whole idea is for our community to understand that there is life after disability."
Meili touched on that goal in her presentation.
"I have this belief that each one of us can do more than we ever thought possible," she said. "Each of us has a power of resilience."
Tuesday's event marked the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation's 10th Possibilities event. The stories of several individuals who have overcome traumatic injuries or illnesses were highlighted.
Bobby Bean, who received therapy at Siskin after he suffered severe injuries in a car accident, is now a Siskin staff member. "I'm blessed and I'm overwhelmed by the support of the community who's come out to support the patients."
Bean's mother was there, as well. "It was such a miracle," Mary Bean said. "We're so thrilled to be here today."
The turnout for the event was the largest yet, according to Main.
Ed Niedbala has attended the event nearly every year since its start.
"It's a great hospital, and that's why we're here," said Niedbala.
Before speaking, Meili toured the Siskin facilities.
"It is just an amazing facility," she said. "I understand why Mr. Main is so proud of his staff and to see the community so supportive is wonderful."
The event is Siskin's biggest public fundraiser. Last year, more than $100,000 was donated to the hospital. Main said the amount raised this year won't be known for about a month as many donations tend to trickle in after the event.
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.