As a proponent of UNICEF Canada’s Football for Life Program, the CANWNT and Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc has recently been named as a UNICEF Canada Ambassador. This is not only an honor for LeBlanc but it is a milestone for women’s professional soccer as she becomes the first professional female footballer to be awarded such a title.
“Karina’s dynamic personality and undivided commitment to improving the lives of children will bring new energy to UNICEF’s work here in Canada. I am very pleased to welcome her to the UNICEF family,” said UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO David Morley.
UNICEF is an organization that strives to assist families and children survive by providing healthcare, clean water, education and nutrition. LeBlanc has been an active supporter for the organization as she has volunteered for the Football for Life program. This program is setup in Honduras and seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle to children across the country. LeBlanc has worked at soccer clinics and taught children how to play soccer while providing them with advice regarding the benefits of playing sports. In many discussions she would outline the path that was paved for her when she decided to commit to soccer. The program was setup for children to engage with sports, build social skills and improve their education. LeBlanc frequently credits her soccer career for paving the way into a university and allowing her to experience different cultures and meet different people.
In an interview with the Thorns in February, LeBlanc referred to her trip to Honduras; “It’s meant to use sport to motivate and inspire kids which is one of the things that we’re fortunate to be able to do (as professional athletes),” LeBlanc said. “As athletes, we need to realize that it’s bigger than us just kicking a soccer ball on the field. For young girls around the world, they’re not fortunate enough to have the freedom to do that. Sport gives you confidence and allows you to do so many things and I think it’s an opportunity to get out there and play with different young women from around the world and just have fun with them and make them see the excitement that comes from it and the confidence. They’re able to talk about issues that they don’t usually talk about and find common ground in conversation with other women.”
Following Karina’s work in Honduras, she returned to Canada to develop a new project called Dreams for Life. The project allows Canadians to contribute to projects that seek to encourage gender equality and save children’s lives by using soccer.
The following video took place during one of LeBlanc’s visits to Honduras. The video shows LeBlanc talking to the members of the Football for Life project and the youth participants.