Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus: Their ‘Coolest Experience’ Since Being Free

From left: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight

updated 05/07/2014 AT 2:45 PM ET

originally published 05/07/2014 AT 3:05 PM ET

Amanda Berry was overcome by tears as she accepted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children HOPE Award Tuesday night.

“If I could say one thing, it’s this: Never give up hope,” Berry, 28, said as her voice broke, “because miracles do happen.”

At her side was Gina DeJesus, also honored by the National Center.

“Always believe in hope, even though sometimes it’s hard to believe in hope. Just pray to God and He’ll be there with hope,” DeJesus, 24, said at the Center’s Washington, D.C. benefit dinner, where supporters gave the two women – who along with Michelle Knight spent nearly 10 years as Ariel Castro’s captives – a prolonged standing ovation.

Child-safety activist John Walsh of TV’s America’s Most Wanted heralded the women as “a lightning bolt of hope.”


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