“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Great accomplishments generally have their roots in humble beginnings.  Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

It is estimated that the 26-mile trek through the Andes, commonly known as the Inca trail, is made up of over 82,000 steps and 55,000 stairs.

17 adventurous souls from Minnesota and Wisconsin completed their journey to the famed Incan empire ruins of Machu Picchu this week.  They ranged in age from 14 to 60.  They described their experience in various ways:
“Humbling.”  “The most difficult thing I have ever done.”  “There are no words to adequately describe the sentiments in my heart at this moment.”  “The most beautiful vistas I have ever seen.”

Each one arrived into the gate of the sun weary, a few arrived with tears rolling down their cheeks, but all arrived with the knowledge that they had just completed one of the most mentally and physically challenging endeavors of their life.

They did this on behalf of children in Peru who will benefit from their fundraising efforts in the next few days.  30-35 children will receive the gift of a life altering surgery free of charge because of the efforts of these 17 individuals and the donors who supported them.

Thank you to all that have made this work possible.
In the next few days we will be posting the images of the children whose lives have been changed because of someone like you.

The Climb

Dead women’s pass is not for the faint of heart. By days end each trekker will know what they are made of. They will ascend to this infamous pass high in the Andes and summit about 3pm.

They will climb over 3,600 vertical feet to an elevation to nearly 14,000 feet to the summit. Before leaving the camp they banned each other whining on the trail today but gave themselves permission to cry and cuss.

Having done the Inca trail 11 years ago, I would say that climbing to dead women’s pass is analogous to childbirth. In the midst of it, you are asking yourself, “what did I get myself into?” When it’s over and you are feeling immensely triumphant and proud of your accomplishment you say to yourself, “I think I can do this again someday!” Under the stars of the southern sky this evening they will know that the trails highest pass yields the greatest rewards.

By Kim Valentini- Founder Smile Network

Trekker, Scott Behmer taking in all the glory of the beautiful Andes Mountains.

Off they go

They are 49 in all. 28 porters, 17 Trekker’s, 3 guides and 1 cook. They are carrying more than 1,300 pounds of gear and provisions for their four day trip through the Andes at elevations ranging from 7,000 to 14,000 feet.

In their load the porters are carrying 24 dozen eggs, 50 fresh caught trout, 45 pounds of potatoes and equal amount of carrots, syrup and flour for tomorrow’s breakfast of pancakes, 8 tents for sleeping and one large mess tent with 20 chairs to feed two rounds of hungry climbers. The porter’s job is to make the ascent as painless as possible for the trekkers so the porters will do the heavy lifting for the team they are supporting. The trekkers only job is to stay focused and get to the finish line of the famed Machu Pichu.

The trekkers set out at 10 am this morning and will arrive into camp tonight around 6pm to a fully set up camp and prepared three-course dinner. They will retire early to get in a full night’s rest before trekking to the summit of dead woman’s pass at just over 13,500 feet tomorrow.

They are hiking for a common purpose: To raise awareness and funds for life altering surgeries provided by Smile Network free of charge to impoverished children in Peru.

We are certain the Incan gods of the Andes will watch over and protect this amazing group of committed adventurous souls as they make their way along the routes created hundreds of years ago by the Incan civilization.

We will remain in radio contact with the group and keep you posted on their journey.

Smiles from Lima

The trekkers finished the four-day, 26 mile trek to more than 13,000 feet and saw  their first glimpse of Machu Picchu when they reached the Gate of the Sun.

The trek is over and onto the mission, the reason they have been training and working so hard to raise awareness and funds to sponsor surgeries of children born with cleft lips and palates in Peru.  The weekend was spent at the hospital in Lima where they witnessed firsthand the life-changing surgeries and met the children and families whose lives will be forever changed.

Thank you Sue, Stacy, Mary, Diane and Emily! IMG_3746IMG_3794IMG_3800

Change the world. Change the future. Change a life.



Machu Picchu!

Today the trekkers will arrive to their destination, the famed Machu Picchu.  Tonight they will celebrate their achievement in the mountain town of Aguascalientes.   They will get their first shower in over four days and get to sleep in a real bed!

Tomorrow they will travel back to Lima to meet the children for whom they have laced up their hiking boots and did the hard work of raising money and awareness for the children awaiting surgeries.

Change the world. Change the future. Change a life.



The Climb to 13,828 Feet

Yesterday the trekkers set out on a trip of a lifetime, hiking the famed Inca Trail.

Today, they were faced with one of the most difficult challenges of their life – the climb to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,828 feet up in the Andes Mountains. In camp tonight they will celebrate their victory.

Thank you Sue Moerer,  Stacy Brehman, Mary Newstrom, Diane Rubright and Emily Samfield  for embarking on this incredible journey and changing the lives of the children you will soon meet at the Lima mission site.

Change the world. Change the future. Change a life.

Dead Woman’s Pass 13,828 feet

The Journey Begins

Everyone got a good night rest under the light of a full moon in the Andes before setting out on a trek of a lifetime.

This morning they checked in at the Government Checkpoint where the trailhead is at 7,000 feet. They crossed the raging Urubamba River on a rope bridge and will trek for about six hours before arriving at their first campsite at 8,500 feet.

The five trekkers are in excellent hands led by our wonderful Trail Guide, Rony, who will be taking them up the mountain along with  cooks and porters carrying all the the supplies, including the food, tents, and everything they need for the four-day trek!


sacred Valley

No Turning Back!

This afternoon, five volunteers embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, to raise awareness and funds to bring smiles to children across the globe through Smile Network International.

The group consists of a wide range of individuals ages 17-61 including a US Air Force Veteran, psychologist and 17-year old high school student. They departed today from Minneapolis for Peru where they will hike the Inca Trail – a four-day, high-elevation 26-mile stone-paved trek to the famed city of Machu Picchu.

After completing the trek, they will participate in a Smile Network mission in Lima, Peru where they will meet the patients and families and see firsthand the life-changing surgeries.  The trekkers give their time, heart and financial support to make these surgical missions possible. To date, this group of trekkers has raised nearly $20,000!

You can monitor the team’s ascent to the 14,000 feet summit as they progress to Machu Picchu here on the Smile Network blog or by following Smile Network on Facebook.

As for some words of wisdom for the group … No turning back. Can’t wait!