Day 3, Inca Trek
We landed in Cusco two days ago and it feels that we have already packed a short lifetime into 48 hours. One can’t help but marvel at the Incan majesty of Cusco. The cobble-stone streets line the wonders of this ancient place. In this high altitude city, you will find a melting pot of cultures represented in the textiles, summer festivals, and archeological ruins.
It is estimated that the 26-mile trek through the Andes is made up of over 82,000 steps and 55,000 stairs. Twelve trekkers are hiking this ancient path to create awareness for the plight of children born with facial deformities and to raise money and awareness for Smile Network. They are supported by donors who have contributed with donations, a hundred percent of which will directly underwrite surgeries for children on the Smile Network waiting List. Meet the trekkers and group guides:
KrisAnn Meyer – Guide
I met Kim Valentini, a business executive from Minnesota. We bonded over life stories and continued connecting over time. As fate would have it, we were reunited in a very different setting through our mutual desire to make a difference in the world. That’s when I started “Miles for Smiles Adventure Programs.” Smile Network had just begun doing surgical missions in Peru, home of the magnificent Inca Trail, and the legendary Incan civilization of Machu Picchu. I had been climbing mountains since I was young, so my next adventure became clear. I offered to guide 11 Smile Network volunteers on the first trip to hike the Inca Trail. Now is the time to ask yourself: “Where is my Mountain, and why aren’t I climbing it?” I have been a flight attendant for Delta Airlines for 43 years. After guiding three children to adulthood, I am guiding myself now on a new journey in my Airstream trailer, volunteering as a park host in various parks throughout America. Next stop Alaska!
Kim Valentini – Guide
Life is short and I want to cram as much into this lifetime as is humanly possible. I have been blessed with good fortune and was able to leave the corporate world sixteen years ago and take some time to map out what I wanted the second act of my life to look like. I have been blessed with two amazing children who are now young adults. As an empty nester, I have the ability and the luxury of time to be able to explore the world and be a conduit to providing opportunities to others to be able make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. As the founder of Smile Network I am in a unique position to marry talent to need, and it is an honor for me to introduce you to these individuals who are doing incredible things make the world a better place.
Jae Kullar 51 (mom) and Kiran Kullar 17(daughter)
I was born in London, England and grew up in Canada near Toronto. I have lived in Atlanta for the past 21 years. I have been married to my husband, Raj, for 24 years and have two teenage daughters, Simirin who is 14 and Kiran who is 17. Kiran and I did our first trip with Smile Network on the Camino in 2015. Following the trip, Kiran decided she wanted to pursue a medical career specifically as a neonatal surgeon so she could one day volunteer as a doctor for Smiile Network. I am a Benefits Manager for Delta Airline and Kiran plays soccer for her high school and is currently preparing for her SAT’s and touring colleges.
I grew up in a small town, married and raised our two sons in the same small town. I have worked in nursing all of my life, retiring from the Minnesota Security Hospital. My husband and I have been married 43 years and have five grandsons. About 14 years ago, I started making hand soaps which I turned into a small business. I have soaps in four local shops and have a website from which I get orders. My favorite part of my business is the social aspect. I sell my soaps at four shows a year and I love seeing my returning customers and meeting new ones. I have come to appreciate each new day and try to live life to the fullest. I can’t wait for this journey to begin.
I am a member of the Minnesota Air National Guard with the United States Air Force for the last 17 years. I currently work at the Department of of Human Services for the State of Minnesota and I am also back in school pursuing an education in Biology and Community Health. Like others, I often contemplate what my purpose is and I have come to one inescapable conclusion: My purpose and legacy will not be measured by the money I make or the action I take, but by the lives I touch. I believe that when we venture out across the globe we can perpetuate the idea that every interaction between two human beings, is an opportunity to create a better world and improve the lives of others. It is a great big world out there, and I want to see and experience as much if it as I can. When I heard a coworker talk about Smile Network, I knew I want to partipcate! I am thrilled and honored to join this group of people and this mission.
I am a Physician Assistant at Mayo Clinic, in the Division of Gastroenteroogy and Hepatoogy. I have been a PA for 15 years. I am a proud mom of two awesome kids. I love spending time with my husband and kids and especially going to their gymnastic meets. I have a passion for traveling. I enjoy experiencing new cultures, especially the food. I am super excited not only to have this amazing opportunity, but also to share it with my husband, Mike. I have been on five surgical missions, three of those with Smile Network. This will be my third trip to Peru. Peruvains are wonderful people and they have amazing food. I can’t wait to explore the Inca trail with my fellow trekkers.
I live in Rochester, MN with my wife Shayla, son Tyler, daughter Keaton, and a dog named Asia. I’m originally from Arizona where I grew up and went to school, eventually graduating from Arizona State University with a Mechanical Engineering degree. I started my career working for Aerospace and Defense companies, but currently I work for a structural composite company in Stewartville, MN as Vice President of Engineering. I enjoy traveling worldwide, volunteering with my son’s Boy Scout troop, “tinkering” with stuff, and doing anything outside, but especially enjoy hunting and fishing. Having twice backpacked the Havasupai trail in the Grand Canyon, I’m excited to hike the Inca Trail with my wife!
Chad and Lindsay Lundeen
We have been married for nearly 11 years and live in Chaska with our 3 children and 2 rescue boxer-mixes. Chad was born and raised in Minnesota and went to college at Minnesota State Mankato to play hockey and majored in Business. For the past 21 seasons, he has worked for the Minnesota Vikings in many different capacities, most recently as the Vice President of Operations, Facilities and Security for the past three years. He still enjoys playing hockey, although most of his time at the rink now is dedicated to coaching all three of his kiddos teams, as well as coaching their soccer and football teams! He also loves to golf, be on the lake and read Jack Reacher novels.
Lindsay was also born and raised in Minnesota where she attended the University of Cincinnati to play volleyball and major in Elementary Education. She later transferred to NDSU, where she graduated. She spent 9 years as an Elementary Teacher in both Becker and Wayzata before staying home with their kiddos after their second child was born. After 4-years at home, she got the bug to teach group fitness, where she has been for the past 5 years at Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen. Once their youngest went to Kindergarten, she tackled a management role there, while pursuing her love of teaching fitness. She loves to be on the lake, work out, cheer on the Minnesota Vikings with her kids, read and rescue dogs, (her husband would add). Both love being with their three kids: Evie (10), Titus (8) and Eloise (5). Eloise was born with a complete unilateral cleft lip and a complete bilateral cleft palate in July of 2013 so participating in this trek has added meaning.
Kyle Soderberg and Janell Stanton Soderberg
Kyle Soderberg was born and raised in MN, where he met his beautiful wife Janell and started their family, currently consisting of 3 wonderful kitties and a super intelligent and compassionate puppy. Together, they discovered their love of the outdoors and hiking. When not spending time with family or immersed in nature, Kyle is a Residential Youth Counselor and Sunday School Youth Leader. “A Smile Network Mission means, helping children (Check), and fantastic adventures, (Check, Check). I’m in, and couldn’t be more excited!”
Janell Stanton Soderberg was born and raised in rural Wisconsin and she too has a beautiful family consisting of 3 wonderful kitties and a super intelligent and compassionate puppy and last, but definitely not least, her husband Kyle. Janell attended the University of Minnesota and then law school at the University of South Dakota. As an attorney, Janell practices employment law representing small and medium sized businesses. She is also passionate about volunteering and currently volunteers with Wills for Heroes writing estate plans for firefighters, police officers, EMTs and veterans, and participates at the Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center attending legal advice clinics to advise domestic abuse survivors on family law, landlord/tenant issues and expungements. In her free time, Janell enjoys spending time in the great outdoors hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing and connecting with other inspirational women as part of local adventure groups. An opportunity for Janell to combine adventure and helping others could not align with her interests any better and she is very excited about her upcoming adventure to Peru!
I like to try new things – especially when it involves travel and service to others. I was able to go to Haiti with Smile Network in 2017, and that was an amazing adventure assisting as a non-medical volunteer to provide life changing surgeries and new smiles to 43 children. I enjoy almost all activities outdoors, I’m willing to try new things, once. I have worked in finance, as a teacher and a job coach for adults with special abilities.
I am a Wisconsin native and Minnesota transplant for the past 25 years. I am a University of Wisconsin graduate and full board Badger! As a freelance Event Planner, I have been fortunate to have key positions with the Men’s Final Four Basketball Championship, 2 Super Bowls, NHL All-Star Game, US Pond Hockey Championships and have assisted many other local organizations with event management. I am an avid outdoors woman, runner and triathlete completing 16 marathons and 12 Ironman triathlon races. My husband, J Robinson, and the summer wrestling camps that bear his name (J Robinson Camps) began a relationship with Smile Network several years ago in which our company matches donations made by the wrestling campers each summer. J speaks to over 1,300 campers each summer about the mission of Smile Network and the importance of getting involved to serve those in need. The opportunity to take part in the Peru trip to experience this mystical region and assist however needed with Smile Network by fundraising or at the Lima mission site is truly a blessing.