The Journey Begins

We are 19 adventurous souls traveling together ranging in age from 17 to 62.  We come from many walks of life, from rural towns and big cities. Some of us are doing this adventure as solo travelers, we have a mother and daughter combination, three married couples and multiple small friend groups. What we all share is a love of adventure, and when given the opportunity to combine our passion for adventure, and to step out of our comfort zone, we were all in!

Today we arrived into Cusco, Peru.  When you live at sea level your lungs know you have arrived into this mountain village deep in the Andes mountains as you pull your luggage across the 3 percent uphill grade of the airport parking lot.  Let’s say it’s analogous to pushing a cart uphill.  It’s more challenging than you might think.  At this point, each of us secretly begins to questions “What did I get myself into? Can I do this?” And the self doubt beings to creep in.

So……give us some time to adjust to the altitude and in the interim, this is who were are.

Meet Judy, Kim, Kathy, and Jody.  We are scaling a vertical cliff to the sky lodge which is anchored into the rock of the mountainside   Our “pod” where we will spend the night hangs from the rocks with the floor of the Sacred Valley. thousands of feet below us.   

Judy Sunderman

Traveler, Grandma, Community Volunteer, farmer

My husband John and I have two adult children, Tyler married to Emily and Abby married to Sam.  They have blessed us with seven grandchildren. I am a 7th generation farm owner near Le Sueur, MN.  I love travel and service and believe there is no better education.  The past six years I have been a volunteer with Smile Network and it has been a life-altering experience.  I continue to be touched by the open-hearted generosity of the community, which I call home and their support of this worthy cause.  I  am thrilled to be sharing this adventure with old friends and looking forward to meeting new ones.  

I have many interest and passions: children, volunteering, travel, fitness, nature, photography, and history. 

I look forward to exchanging smiles with the beautiful children of Peru and their families. 

Kim Hammes

Wife, mother, realtor, volunteer mission coordinator for Smile Network.

This will be my 11th life-changing experience with Smile Network. Six years ago, I had never really hiked, camped or done much travel.  One night I rented the movie, “The Way.”  As a recent empty nester this story and the quote, “you don’t choose a life, you live one” prompted me to examine my life.  I contacted Smile Network and stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up to trek the Inca Trail and participate in my first surgical mission.  This experience ignited a spark in me and Smile Network continues to inspire me to challenge myself on many levels.

I embrace the wisdom of Saint Francis of Assisi…” for it is in the giving that we receive.”  I intend to conquer some personal fears while in the Andes and experience the majestic sites of Peru, nurture friendships and once again witness the miracle of Smile Network in the lives of children.

Jodi Bruns

Wife, Mother, Adventurer, Purpose Driven Woman

 I grew up in a small town in central Minnesota and after high school attended the University of Minnesota Morris where I met my husband.  Together we moved several times and furthered our education and raised two children and immersed ourselves in the communities where we live and work.  I have always worked for mission-driven organizations.  Currently, I work for the Minnesota State University Mankato, supporting efforts needed to raise funds for students, research and other campus initiatives.

I “grew up” with my kids and as the years went by I challenged them and myself.  I’ve walked many miles, sailed the Caribbean, jumped out of a plane, held a stingray and swam with sharks, ran half marathons, hiked Mt Quandary and sewn a quilt: all things that require persistence and more perseverance than I thought I had.  The need to be purposeful was instilled by my Mom and since her passing, it’s become more important to me to make a difference.  I have supported friends affiliated with the Smile Network for years and am thrilled to now be doing the Peru trip with them where my sense for adventure will align with my need for purpose.

Kathy Thune

Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Keeper of Mitch’s Memory and Spirit

I live in Le Seuer., Minnesota  I am married to my husband Kent and have four beautiful children and four grandchildren.  My husband an I own and electrical contracting company in Le Seuer and Arlington.  I also drive transit for Minnesota River Vally out of St Peter part time.  I love meeting people and doing new actives.  I hiked the Camino in August of 2015 with Smile Network and it was profound for me.  I believe you get back more than you give.  Looking toward to making an impact in the world!

Come back to this site tomorrow to learn more about the 12 trekkers who have joined the trip as well.