Olympic gold medalist ski racer Lindsey Vonn and her foundation’s Strong Girls Camp is centered around sports, life skills and empowerment. On Aug. 17 to 18, six girls from Queens were selected to participate in the camp and had the pleasure of meeting Vonn.
Sponsored by Chase, the Strong Girls Camp in partnership with ZGiRLS, visits a new location every year and is free for 11- to 14-year-olds. This year, the two-day camp was held at Hudson Yards in Manhattan.
Three of the Queens girls, aged 11 — Madelyn Yan of Bayside, LeSara Cooper-May of Laurelton, and Taylor Kendall of Laurelton — took part in activities such as team building exercises, self-talk, how to turn negatives into positives and also a Q&A forum with Vonn.
The Lindsey Vonn Foundation was established in 2015, which is the same year LVF hosted its first girls camp in Vail, Colorado, with 90 girls in attendance.
“We’ve since gone all over the country from Minnesota to Los Angeles and this year, New York City and Baltimore,” Vonn said in a statement to QNS. “The idea started because when I met my idol, Picabo Street, when I was 9 years old for five minutes, it changed my life. So I thought, “If five minutes could change my life and inspire me, what can I do in one weekend to inspire multiple girls?”
The goal of Vonn’s camp, she says, is to break girls out of their shells, to help them think positively, and encourage them to reach their goals, giving them the tools with all of the foundation’s programs.
Yan, a fan of Vonn, was excited to meet the Olympic athlete and said the Strong Girls Camp has helped her step outside of her comfort zone.
“When I was younger, I wrote about Lindsey and after her injury she still got back up and went to the Olympics, which was pretty awesome,” Yan said. “We learned how to become a strong team and how to have that mindset of a strong person. It was fun to meet Lindsey and hang out with her. The camp made me meet new people, and because we did a lip sync battle it made me feel more confident in myself.”
For Cooper-May and Kendall, it was an overall good experience filled with fun and they look forward to attending another event in the future.
“I learned not to judge yourself, to believe in yourself,” Cooper-May said. “Lindsey Vonn was really nice and I feel happy after attending the camp.”
This is the second year Chase has sponsored the camp and contributed their expertise to cyber safety and a financial workshop — two topics that are highly important to Vonn.
“I think you’re never too young to learn how to budget money and today the internet is a huge part of these girls lives. But it’s so easy, almost too easy, to become a victim of cyber hacking,” Vonn said. “The life skills workshops are designed to make girls aware of how to keep themselves safe, and also understand the importance of budgeting and saving. You can never be too young to start on a path of financial health! Chase has made a multi-year commitment to financial health education, and I’m so glad to have them on board to help these girls achieve their future financial goals.”
Vonn’s foundation has also been working in partnership with ZGiRLS from the beginning of 2015.
“They have a great team of mentors who are athletes themselves who really understand the girls and how important the curriculum is,” Vonn said.
Growing up, Vonn struggled with exuding confidence and for her, it’s been the hardest battle to overcome.
“It’s hard for everyone. We all have self-doubt and need encouragement but that’s something you need to learn,” Vonn said. “If kids aren’t learning this at home — they’re not learning it. That’s why it’s so important for us to start this program to teach these girls early on that there are steps you can take to help yourself and to help others build self-esteem.”
Vonn added, “My message to young girls who are struggling with confidence, motivation and stepping outside of their comfort zone is to just remember to do the best you can every day. It doesn’t matter what people think — as long as you’re doing your best — that’s all the matters.”
So far, Baltimore, MD, will be the fifth state state in five years the camp has visited, Vonn said.
“We started in Colorado (one camp in Vail and one in Denver), gone to Minnesota, California, New York and heading to Baltimore this September,” Vonn said. “We usually try to find a state that needs it, we have a connection to, and has been requested. So follow us on our social to see if we’re coming to your home state next summer!”