Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was named UNICEF Canada’s newest ambassador on Tuesday, making the Olympic bronze medalist the first women’s soccer player to earn the distinction.
LeBlanc, a veteran of two Olympic Games and four FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, helped the Canada Women’s National Team clinch a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics and recently joined Thorns FC for training camp ahead of the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League season.
A 15-year member of Canada’s national team, LeBlanc first joined forces with UNICEF Canada on a trip to Honduras earlier this year to visit its “Football for Life” program. The program ensures access to education and vital health care to more than 40,000 girls and boys through sport. It also strives to protect children from violence and abuse, promotes gender equality and educates young people on preventing HIV and teen pregnancy and decreases school dropout rates.
While in Honduras LeBlanc led a number of soccer clinics for girls sharing her skills with hundreds of participants. She also engaged in numerous conversations with children and heard about the challenges they face growing up in poverty and surrounded by deadly violence.
“Traveling with UNICEF was incredibly rewarding,” LeBlanc said. “It was inspiring to connect with girls who face so many challenges, but are using soccer to beat the odds and reach their goals. I told these children that soccer has also given me many opportunities and that they should dream big and never give up.
“Seeing this first-hand in Honduras strengthened my belief in UNICEF’s vital work. I am so pleased to be part of this organization and look forward to meeting more children UNICEF reaches as its newest ambassador,” she said.