LeBlanc urges youth of Dominica to dream big

(ABOVE) Canada international Karina LeBlanc (center) visited Dominica last month with an inspirational message for its young people.

MIAMI -- Canada international Karina Leblanc returned to her childhood home in Dominica last month, inspiring local youth to ‘dream big’. 

LeBlanc is a UNICEF Ambassador for the ‘No Child Too Far’ initiative and visited projects, conducted football clinics and met with Dominican government officials. 

“It was so special and different to me,” LeBlanc told CONCACAF.com.  “People ask me about my list of achievements all the time, I think it’s (the trip to Dominica) is up there. I was so excited about the opportunity.  As I was approaching the islands, I don’t get nervous before games, but I had the shakes.  It was as soon as I landed I knew this was going to be different trip.” 

LeBlanc was raised in Dominica until age eight, before moving to Canada.  Four years later, she walked onto a soccer field in British Columbia for the first time. 

In an illustrious career at all levels, LeBlanc has earned more than 100 international caps for Canada, has been on the roster for four FIFA Women’s World Cups and captured bronze at the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament. 

In 2013, LeBlanc teamed up with UNICEF Canada and, in addition to Dominica, has travelled to Honduras in order to share a story of perseverance aimed at boosting the self-worth of young people. 

“My goal, originally, was not only the kids would hear my story and think it was cool, but they would feel something within that made them think they could be greater than originally thought,” said the goalkeeper, 35.  “When I left the island, I felt like I accomplished that.  It was pretty powerful.” 

Known as a hard to crack professional between the sticks, LeBlanc admitted the journey back home struck an emotional chord. 

“During the trip I just broke down in tears just because I went there with the intention of giving back,” but I left with so much more,” she expressed.  “I left being inspired again to a whole different level.” 

LeBlanc fought back tears when she recounted her most memorable moment: “There was a little girl who thanked me after a visit and said, today I know I am special, I know I am meant for greatness and today I believe I am beautiful.  There is no moment in the game of soccer that makes you feel what you feel in that moment when you help change somebody’s life.” 

LeBlanc hopes to be on her fifth FIFA World Cup squad this June, when Canada hosts the competition