Roast a marshmallow on a volcano. Check.

Turn eleven colleagues from strangers to family within three days. Check.

Cry in front of said colleagues and 300 Guatemalan children. Four times. Okay, seven times. Check, check, and check.

Control my humidity-manic hair with a hat. Semi-check.

Change the lives of children. Check.

Change my life. Check.

I was able to complete this bizarre list (and more) by being selected to attend an adidas Social Purpose impact trip with our non-profit partner Soles4Souls this April. Twelve colleagues from ten different departments and six different cities were chosen to leave their day job, travel to Guatemala and distribute sports shoes in some of the most poverty-stricken corners of the world. During our three days, we visited four different schools and provided trainers to nearly 1,000 children in need.

A group of teachers and children stand together to capture a group photo. children, school, happy, teachers, students
The adidas team ready to deliver the power of a pair of shoes to hundreds of students at a school in Antigua.

But first, an unexpected challenge

Before I could embrace the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ahead of me, I had to face a newly found truth about myself.

Not even an hour before finding out I had been chosen for the trip, I had left the cardiologist’s office having learned that a birth defect in my heart had progressed more severely than I thought. The treatment for the defect is open heart surgery, likely to be needed within the next five years; certainly, within the next ten.

Focus on your purpose rather than your challenge

When I was informed I’d be traveling to Guatemala, I burst into tears. The fear inside of me changed. I felt a sense of peace that was foreign to me, but I have since identified this as the feeling of having a purpose.

It wasn’t until I was selected for Guatemala that I began to question my obsession with sneakers. I counted my collection: 42 pairs. At some point, I crossed the line from obsession to addiction. And the worst part is, if I am truly honest with myself, of those 42 pairs there is only one pair that I could truly not do without: my running shoes.

Using your passion for good

My running shoes give me a genuine confidence because they give me the sport that has meant so much to who I’ve become. Running changed my life by cultivating confidence, power, friends, and both mental and physical strengths that I could not have achieved otherwise.

That confidence, power and friendships through running is something that we had a chance to deliver when we landed in Guatemala. No matter the school we visited, there was a heartbreaking common thread: the desperate need for proper footwear.

While new shoes are a want for many of us, for these kids, shoes are a need.

A woman bends to help a little girl put on a new pair of shoes. helpful, kindness, sneakers, helping hand
I quickly realized I was fitting kids with more than just a pair of shoes.

As we fit them with a new pair, neither color nor style mattered. The only thing that mattered was that it was a shoe; a shoe that would allow them to walk to school, to play sports, and to be children without worry of injury and disease.

Seeing the shoes come out of the box and onto their feet, their eyes radiated a light within that spread to their smiles.

Two children hold their thumbs up smiling. happy, children, accomplishment, proud

Each child gave a hug and a thank you before running to proudly show friends their new shoes. I will forever love shoes; however, now, I love them differently. I have seen in the eyes of those children what it truly means to give someone the power that my running shoes have given me.

Knowing that I have a greater purpose in the world, greater than open heart surgery and my own shoe obsession, has left me a forever changed human.

If there’s one thing I learned on this trip, it’s to lead with your heart in everything you do – at work, at home and while interacting with others.You never know how your heart can change your own life – and the world.

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by Rachel Lobo 26.04.2018
Laura - what a wonderful story! I am awed by your humility, grace and passion for what you do. Thank you for sharing such a powerful experience and your personal insights. You did well, my friend. You did well. Check!
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by Laura Duffy Rachel Lobo 26.04.2018
Thank you so much Rachel!
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by fe lix 26.04.2018
lovely write up. thanks laura.
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by Laura Duffy fe lix 26.04.2018
Thank YOU for sharing the experience!
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by Kaytee Berg 27.04.2018
Tears Laura. So well written. I could feel your emotions through your words. THANK YOU for sharing!
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by Laura Duffy Kaytee Berg 27.04.2018
Thank you so much Kaytee!
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by Lee Fennell 27.04.2018
Nice work Laura! I'm blown away and completely envious that you had this opportunity!
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by Laura Duffy Lee Fennell 27.04.2018
Lee— so great to hear from you! Thank you!
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by Allison Levy 30.04.2018
I like the way you think Laura! Great read. Definitely feeling all of the emotion in your pics as well.
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by Laura Duffy Allison Levy 30.04.2018
Thank you Allison!
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by Sheree Abbass 30.04.2018
Laura, I am so happy for you, what an experience. I love your writing, thank you for sharing.
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by Laura Duffy Sheree Abbass 01.05.2018
Thank you Sheree! :)
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by Erin Newton 01.05.2018
Wow! What a story!!! Reminds me to lead with MY heart. And I’m a nurse so leading with heart is important but sometimes we forget.

Oh, and proud that my daughter’s favorite babysitter grew up to be such an incredible young woman. And this heart thing? You’ve had an amazing heart ALL your life. You’ve got this Laura. You’ve got this.
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by Laura Duffy 01.05.2018
Thank you Erin-- I appreciate you and your kind words!
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by Laura Plümer 04.05.2018
The tears to my eyes are but an echo of how it made my heart feel.
This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Miss you!
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by Laura Duffy Laura Plümer 05.05.2018
Miss you Laura! Thank you!
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by Joel Santos 09.05.2018
Laura! Beautiful article, very moving!

I work at a company very related to adidas (www.generationadidasinternational.com). We are specialized in youth development programs; but we also have a "sister" company that is very aligned to your spirit and values. Please check this (www.thirdhalfsoccer.com) and this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TBXboCA9rk) out!!

Looking forward to connect with you!!
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by Laura Duffy Joel Santos 10.05.2018
Thank you Joel! I sent you a LinkedIn message— The Third Half looks like an amazing program. I’d love to chat about it!
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