Soccer star Karina LeBlanc named UNICEF Canada's newest Ambassador

Canadian goalkeeper is UNICEF's first professional female footballer ambassador

TORONTO, March 26, 2013 /CNW/ - UNICEF Canada is pleased to announce Karina LeBlanc, goalkeeper for the Canadian women's soccer team and Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 London games as its newest ambassador.

Karina is the longest-serving player in Canadian soccer history representing Canada for more than 15 years including at two Olympic Games, three Pan American Games and four FIFA Women's World Cups. Karina helped lead Canada to its historic bronze medal win in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Using her popularity, leadership and passion to inspire young people to dream big, Karina will raise support for UNICEF's work improving the lives of girls around the world through soccer as its newest ambassador.

"We are delighted Karina is lending her inspirational voice to our work harnessing the power of sport to improve the lives of girls and boys," says UNICEF Canada's President and CEO David Morley. "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."

Karina first teamed up with UNICEF Canada on a trip to Honduras earlier this year to visit its Football for Life program.

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world.  Every two days a child is murdered which is a rate almost 60 times higher than in Canada. Poverty rates are also high - one in four children lives on less than $1.25 a day and nearly a quarter of all children never complete primary school.

UNICEF's Football for Life program ensures access to education and vital health care to more than 40,000 girls and boys through sport. It also protects children from violence and abuse, promotes gender equality, educates young people on preventing HIV and teen pregnancy and decreases school dropout rates.

While in Honduras Karina led a number of soccer clinics for girls sharing her skills with hundreds of young participants. She also led candid 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. 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," says Karina.

Since returning to Canada Karina has set up a new Dreams for Life fund where Canadians interested in supporting UNICEF's programs using soccer to save lives and encourage gender equity, like Football for Life in Honduras, can contribute by visiting www.unicef.ca

"I have always known that UNICEF is the world's leader in protecting children and ensuring children have access to basics like health care, education and clean water. 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."

UNICEF uses the power of sport to improve children's lives around the world. It also has a long history of partnering with the world's leading sports organizations and events including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Cricket Council (ICC), Special Olympics International, and FIFA - the Federation Internationale de Football Association.

Today Karina joins some of the world's most esteemed athletes that use their talents, fame and dedication to raise awareness, fundraise and advocate for children around the world as UNICEF ambassadors.

Join us online and on social media

@karinaleblanc and @UNICEFLive
https://www.facebook.com/KarinaLeBlanc.KK
https://www.facebook.com/UNICEF-Canada
www.karinaleblanc.com
www.unicef.ca

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

Image with caption: "UNICEF Canada ambassador and Olympic bronze medalist Karina LeBlanc with participants of UNICEF's "Football for Life" program in Honduras. The program helps decrease drop-out rates and promotes healthy lifestyles for 40,000 vulnerable children across the country. (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130326_C8096_PHOTO_EN_24784.jpg

SOURCE: UNICEF Canada

For further information:

For more information to arrange an interview or for b-roll contact:

Melanie Sharpe UNICEF Canada 416-482-6552 ext. 8892 cell: 416-871-7345 msharpe@unicef.ca


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