Over the weekend, hundreds of those in the mental health field across the state gathered for the Care Lodge 25th Annual Conference. One of the guest speakers, Dave Pelzer, is well-known throughout the country by his book, A Child Called It. Pelzer has survived one of California’s worst cases of child abuse after being starved, beaten, and tortured by his own mother at a young age. “I never thought I’d live this long. As a child, I thought I was going to die because of what happened to me, and then I thought I wasn’t going to make it through foster care or maybe the Air Force when I flew for the Air Force. I’m pushing 60 now, and I’m a fire captain, which is kind of nice and that keeps me kind of busy.” Sara Smith with the Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter said having Pelzer as a guest speaker is an honor and is all about encouraging those in the mental health field. “Having Dave here today is really an amazing experience. He’s so humble and real about his own story and the work that his community did to get him out of a situation. It’s a true honor to have him here to uplift us and support us in the work that we do.”
Pelzer said he would not have made it if it weren’t for the work and care of those in the mental health field who helped him after he was rescued and that his survival has been his ultimate driving force. “I knew if I could survive what happened to me as a child, then I could try to survive foster care, I could try to join the military. They didn’t even want me because I was a high school foster child drop out, and that’s the worst of the worst. I kind of like it even to this day, that, when something doesn’t work out, I just keep fighting for it,” said Pelzer. This conference is co-sponsored by Alliance Health Center and in partnership with the MSU Social Work Program. “I mean, look at Mr. Pelzer and what he’s been through. He’s a very successful man. So, it shows the therapists that what they’re doing is so good for these individuals, and they may suffer Post Traumatic Stress, but they’re able to survive and succeed in life. So, it really gives them something to hold onto to show that they’re really doing a lot of good for these kids,” said Cindy Dyess, Director of Business Development at Alliance.