By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

Some people succumb to the trials and tribulations that life ultimately offers, and others use those circumstances to benefit others.

Allie Marie Smith is part of the latter group. She is the executive director and founder of “Wonderfully Made” a nonprofit organization that offers young women between the ages of 12 and 22 the opportunity to find their true value and identity, and to cultivate a healthy view of who they truly are – “wonderfully made.”

“Today’s girls and young women are having a hard time believing their value. Many are dying inside and don’t know the life of great worth and purpose God has for them,” said Smith. “We want to share a message that girls and young women are incredibly valuable and equip and encourage them to live healthy, whole, and radiant lives. This is our goal at Wonderfully Made.”

On Sunday, April 14, renowned professional surfer Bethany Hamilton will premiere a new documentary by Aaron Lieber titled “Unstoppable” about her life and surfing career.

It will be screened at 2 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Doors open at 1 p.m. for a silent auction and a welcome concert by Hilary and Kate on guitar and violin. Kathy Ireland will be interviewing Hamilton on stage after the film and there will also be a VIP meet-and-greet after-party with Hamilton. All proceeds go to Wonderfully Made to expand its resources and programs.

Smith’s journey started early in life, when at the age of 12 she began to experience feelings of unworthiness that ultimately led to a deep depression.

“It didn’t make any sense because I was brought up in a wonderful, loving home, I had great parents, lots of opportunities, a good education, I thrived in sports, which made me a very confident person. I always believed in God; my faith has always been very important to me,” she said.

“In high school the feelings of unworthiness intensified. l had everything a girl could want, but I fell into a deep depression,” she continued. “By the time I turned 18 I became so depressed I didn’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Basically my life fell apart. I was diagnosed with severe depression.”

This is very common today, she says, citing statistics that 98 percent of girls feel immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way. One in four girls fall into a clinical diagnosis – depression, eating disorders, cutting, and other mental and emotional disorders. They are experiencing social media bullying and poor body image and making destructive decisions.

On top of these, many more report being constantly anxious, sleep deprived and under significant pressure. Most girls have a very warped perception of themselves.

 “Through this period my faith became even stronger and my family and friends prayed for me to get well. I started to read the Bible for the first time and I found a lot of comfort there, especially Psalm 139:14, which states ‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’ I was inspired to take that message to young girls,” she said.

In 2002 Smith attended Pepperdine and tried to start a club, but again she experienced another bout with depression. She transferred to Santa Clara University in San Jose, where she had grown up.

“I felt compelled to start a positive faith-based student club for girls, so I put up a poster in the girls’ bathroom and three girls responded. That group grew from the four of us to about 40 in two years,” she explained. “We built a little community. We would go to the beach, have coffee dates, read Bible passages, and share stories and our struggles. Long-lasting relationships were formed.

“I’ve had setbacks from time to time but I have strong family support and professional help and counselling to help me heal and live a full life,” she said. “As I went through my challenges I saw my girlfriends going through the same struggles, which included eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and unhealthy relationships. There was this overarching theme that we didn’t know our self-worth – that we are created in the image and likeness of God.”

“I see mental health challenges like an onion – there’s lots of layers. To me these layers are physiological, chemical, hormonal, circumstantial, spiritual, and relational. For me it was physiological and chemical,” she explained.

After college, where she obtained a degree in business and marketing, Smith started working in publishing and marketing and wrote two Bible-based workbooks for young women.

“The first workbook was to help young women cultivate an emotionally healthy relationship with food and their bodies, and the other was to let them know their true God-given value and identity,” said Smith. “In 2009 we did a one-day retreat for about 100 high school girls at Horseman’s Hangout in Santa Ynez. Later that year we did our first young women conference in Santa Barbara for 400 young women. We’ve done nine conferences in California and Hawaii.”

In 2011 Smith formed the nonprofit Wonderfully Made. She dedicates most of her time to it as a volunteer. She makes a living as a portrait photographer and does social media marketing for small businesses. She has been married to her husband Paul for 11 years.

Wonderfully Made offers young women’s conferences, films with young women’s stories, podcasts and other resources, and an online community. It has reached more than 100,000 girls and women since it began in 2004.

“Our message to the girls is that they are incredibly valued, have great worth and are loved, and when you get that, it can change your life,” Smith said.

In 2014 Wonderfully Made partnered with Hamilton’s foundation “Friends of Bethany Hamilton.” Smith says she became acquainted with Hamilton through her close friend, Sarah Hill, who was Hamilton’s youth leader when she was attacked by a shark in Kauai, Hawaii, losing one arm.

“Wonderfully Made co-hosts an annual young women’s conference with Bethany called ‘Anchored in Love.’ The inspiring one-day event is designed to help junior high, high school and college-age girls and their moms and mentors to discover their true beauty, purpose and worth. Bethany serves as the keynote speaker and the event has encouraged over 7,000 teen girls and women over the past five years,” said Smith.

“Getting to know Bethany personally over the last five years, all I can say is that she is an incredibly kind, genuine person who cares deeply about others. She gives God the glory for her life and her success,” she said.  

“My life is much more than just a shark attack,” the surfer said. “I’ve overcome a lot of other struggles. I know that I can overcome really tough times, but there are also moments when I have doubts or struggles, and I like that ‘Unstoppable’ will show the more real version of me,” she added.

For best prices, purchase tickets for “Unstoppable” at the Arlington Box Office or order them online at

To learn more about Wonderfully Made or to donate online, visit or mail to PO Box 129, Buellton, CA 93427. All donations are tax deductible.