Karina LeBlanc Foundation opening opportunities

Will help young girls reach their sporting dreams.

A $15,000 donation from Founder’s Cup helped launch the Karina LeBlanc Foundation on Wednesday night in Maple Ridge. (Contributed)

A $15,000 donation from Founder’s Cup helped launch the Karina LeBlanc Foundation on Wednesday night in Maple Ridge. (Contributed)

The Karina LeBlanc Foundation was launched on Wednesday, to help girls fulfill their sporting dreams.

Before she became an Olympian, a keeper in professional women’s soccer, and more recently a sports media commentator, LeBlanc was a kid in Maple Ridge with big plans.

Looking back on how she got where she is, LeBlanc was inspired to begin the organization by a generous donation she received as a young girl from a Maple Ridge organization.

Her mom had told her that if she wanted to go to soccer camps and pursue other expensive opportunities, she would have to look for financial sponsorship from local businesses. The shy teen started canvassing, and was surprised by a $500 donation from Marv Jones Honda.

“It wasn’t necessarily the amount, it was that someone who didn’t know me believed in me,” LeBlanc said.

Jones backed a winner.

LeBlanc represented Canada as a goalkeeper on the women’s national soccer team for more than 18 years, through five World Cups two Olympic Games, capped by winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

She retired from the sport after the 2015 World Cup.

Now she wants to give back, by helping adolescent girls who also need some support.

The Karina LeBlanc Foundation has been formed for girls in the community. All donations received will be put into bursaries and grants to provide girls with the opportunity to go to camps to enhance their skills in sport or other activities.

“The Karina LeBlanc Foundation aims to support adolescent girls from all socio-economic backgrounds through accessible resources and mentorship to achieve their dreams and to produce future leaders,” said a release.

It was announced at a launch event at The ACT, and a $15,000 first donation was presented by the Founders Cup Charity.

“I’m really excited about this,” said LeBlanc. “This is very near and dear to my heart.”

She loves coming back to Maple Ridge, because it reminds her of her childhood, which is a good thing for everyone, she said.

In May, the city officially opened a new sports field named in her honour at Merkley Park.

“I was blown away,” said LeBlanc. “You never dream of your town having a field named after you.”

The field is next to Maple Ridge secondary, where LeBlanc attended. It is also where she was always working on her game, generally playing a pickup game with guys. She said they were always happy to have a goaltender to shoot on.

Or she would go there with her boyfriend Jason from her teen years – and now her husband – and he would take shots on her.

“This was the field that was my field of dreams,” she said.

She was also “blown away” by all her friends, former teachers from high school and former teammates who showed up for the event.

“I speak for a living, but I was up there crying.”

LeBlanc is an inspirational figure, and that has led to her doing commentary for CBC, TSN and Sportsnet, working as a Unicef ambassador and her new job will be as head of women’s soccer for Concacaf. The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football is the continental governing body for the sport in the region, and a key role for her will be to make sure all 41 countries are fielding competitive women’s teams.

LeBlanc grew up on a Caribbean island, coming to Maple Ridge at the age of eight. So she has personal experience in a part of the world where they have challenges getting youth teams together, and playing for a top-five ranked country in the world.

“Now I get to be a voice, and make sure we have more people participating in soccer in those countries,” she said.

LeBlanc lives in Vancouver, and will also work out of the Concacaf offices in Miami in her new position.

“My second home is the airport,” she said.

She’s philosophical about the new challenge that she has taken.

“It’s interesting how when you start living your life with purpose, opportunities open up.”


Karina LeBlanc Foundation opening opportunities

The new Karina LeBlanc Foundation will help girls reach their dreams. (Contributed)

The new Karina LeBlanc Foundation will help girls reach their dreams. (Contributed)