Southampton’s Mary Fran Bontempo and Ivyland’s Kristin Smedley admit they have “wildly different” personalities. Still, one thing united these unlikely besties – experiencing crises and coming out stronger than ever.
Both women had their respective worlds come crashing down. Bontempo learned her son was a heroin addict on Mother’s Day 2010, while two of Smedley’s three children were born with a rare blindness. Neither was prepared for these unprecedented hurdles, but both found ways to empower themselves and their families.
On Saturday, March 7, at The Cornerstone Club in Warrington, Bontempo and Smedley, both TEDx speakers, award-winning authors and successful entrepreneurs, will present to 100 attendees Brilliantly Resilient LIVE! – a life-changing event that shares strategies on how to discover resilience and uncover brilliance in order to thrive in the face of adversity.
“We’re aware that our stories are pretty extreme. Not many people are waking up to find out they have a heroin addict, although I’d say a lot of people are now getting that phone call. And not many people are going through blindness, but we relate it,” Smedley said. “We share where we’ve been and what we did with it.”
According to Bontempo, whose son is currently doing well after a pain medication overdose, everyone has a decision to make when life throws a curveball.
“The decision is, are you going to live there or are you just visiting? You can live in that place forever, but you can also just say, ‘No. You know what? This is happening to me and I’m going to figure out how to get through it,’” she said. “It [a crisis] is the end of the world. Make no mistake. You’re gonna cry, you’re gonna shake your fists at the heavens and it’s just going to really suck. But it’s not going to last forever.”
During Brilliantly Resilient LIVE!, guests will have the opportunity to write down and ask questions, and share their own stories of struggle.
“We really want people to get talking about this stuff because when you open it up and you share with other people, first of all, it’s an opportunity to build your village,” Bontempo said. “The best way to do that is to start talking and recognizing that you’re not alone. Although your details may be different, you have something that is comparable to someone else’s level of yuck. You can find common ground, and that’s what we’re trying to do. When we’re all talking together and working together, we all rise. We all get better.”
Though Brilliantly Resilient LIVE! is the first time Bontempo and Smedley are presenting their stories on such a large scale, they recently spoke to a group of local teens during a leadership summit.
“This is a message that knows no age or demographic boundaries,” Bontempo said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are in life. We realized that we all have this resilience in us. We just don’t recognize it until we need it. But if you can recognize it and then also acknowledge the skill set you bring to getting through your crisis, that’s your brilliance. And you can carry those things on consciously and be more prepared to deal with the stuff that life’s going to throw at you.”
For Bontempo, it was impossible to prepare for Smedley’s entrance into her life. But she (for the most part) is thankful.
“My constantly running in circles drives her nuts and she loves it,” Smedley said with a laugh.
“I need a three-hour nap after we have a meeting,” Bontempo responded. “But I know we were destined to meet. I really believe we were brought together for a reason, and I think this is the greater purpose that’s come out of that.”
The two ran in the same circle of women in business, and quickly realized they were both trying to share the same message of hope. So, they figured, why not do it together?
“We have a good time helping people get through all the muck because, at the end of the day, if you can’t sit there and laugh and smile, what can you do? And that’s kind of how we get through it and joke around and really cheer each other on,” Smedley said.
This year, Bontempo and Smedley hope to bring Brilliantly Resilient LIVE! to the educational community, including Bucks County Community College. In the meantime, they’re encouraging women to come out on March 7, either with friends or by themselves.
“There’s no chance you’re coming in there not knowing anybody and leaving not knowing anybody,” Smedley said. “The room will be a village together that day.”
“We’re trying to make this a generally supportive event of women and their interests,” Bontempo said, adding that a number of vendors will be present. “Even if they’re not currently experiencing a challenge, this is the message – you need to have this stuff at the ready before you get hit by the train. It’s very helpful to go into these experiences knowing what your strengths are and knowing that you will get through this somehow.”
If you go: Brilliantly Resilient LIVE! takes place Saturday, March 7, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., at The Cornerstone Club, 847 Easton Road, Warrington. To order tickets, visit conta.cc/2G7cl0R or contact email@example.com. Vendor information is available at maryfranbontempo.com/brilliantly-resilient-vendor-information/.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org