Standing in front of a metal monument affixed with knives, chains and belts and singing boisterously along with the Michael Jackson's "Heal the World," David Mackert embraced his wife and smiled.
"I'm so happy now," he said. "When I was little I was afraid of my father. I loved him, but I was afraid of him. I don't want my children to have that same fear of me."Mackert and his wife are enrolled in Lift Off 77, a seminar program of Impact International Training, designed to help participants "make their lives go better" by working through painful memories caused by physical, emotional or sexual abuse, said Impact International spokeswoman Jennifer Black.
At the Salt Lake City and County Building Saturday morning, Lift Off 77 - the 77th group to complete the course - created a monument bearing destroyed weapons. The four-foot metal fixture with the inscription, "In commitment to freedom of peace, we bury these weapons," will be placed in a city park, Black said.
"We hope that this can always serve as a reminder" about violence, she said.
"This symbolizes the end of the violence," Mackert said. "Not so much the weapons, but a symbol of what we can do to make what we perceive to be a perfect world."
Lift Off 77 member Athlene McCloud stood in front of the group to encourage the crowd of about 60 people milling about the monument to give up "tools of violence."
"I challenge you all. I challenge you all to do the same to make this world a better place."
Valerie Klein held up an aluminum can to be placed on the monument.
"This represents a negative impact that I make on the planet. I commit to decrease my negative impact on the environment. This is also a weapon," she said.
Impact International is a three-phase program that costs participants more than $1,000. Despite the hefty price tag, Mackert, who was introduced to Lift Off in May, said it is well worth the cost.
"It is worth every penny," he said. "My wife and I became more loving and willing to deal with issues. The training is such that it really makes you look at your life."
Black said the program is divided into three levels - Quest, Summit and Lift Off - and is staffed by professionals. Those who make it to the Lift Off level meet every other weekend for six weeks to complete the training.
Although many in the program have abusive backgrounds, Black said the program can benefit anyone.
"Generally, it is for just about anyone, not just those who have suffered abuse," she said. "Not everyone in the group has been abused, but I am amazed at the amount of abuse that is out there."
Lift Off 77 built the monument for their "graduation" from the Impact International program, Black said.