When Lindsey Vonn was 9 years old she met an Olympic gold medalist who inspired her to become an Olympian herself, and now she is giving back to the next generation of athletes. When she was younger her hero was Picabo Street. While the meeting was brief —  Vonn describes it as less than two minutes, and she does not remember what she said — the impact lasted her whole life. 

The impact Street made on her has stayed with her to this day, and she still has the poster Street signed for her that says “Follow your dreams” hanging in her bedroom in her home in Colorado. “She was the reason why I wanted to be an Olympic skier,” Vonn told USA TODAY. “She was just larger than life. It’s kind of like meeting a superhero and never thinking that they actually really exist until you meet them in person.”

Vonn wanted to be just like her, and decided then she would dedicate her energy and time to commit to the sport. “She had this energy and charisma that you could feel, and it just kind of sucked me in. I was like, ‘I’m in. I want to be you, whatever you did. I’m in.'”

Her interaction still was a source of inspiration for her when she was injured in 2015 which led her to start the Lindsey Vonn Foundation. The foundation will host its annual Strong Girls camp over the weekend for the fourth straight year. She wants to be the inspiration for someone like Street was for her. If Picabo can make an impact on my life that lasts that long after being there for [less than] two minutes, what could I do with a whole day?” Vonn said. “If I could spend a whole day with kids, you know, how could I positively impact them?”

Vonn has been inspired by the United States women’s national soccer team and their fight for equal pay. “Look at the women’s soccer team and what they were able to achieve. … They had much better viewership for their tournament than the men, [so] they should actually be getting more because the advertisers and everyone else is making more money off of their success,” Vonn said. “I think it’s important for us to teach these girls that are young [that] they can achieve anything they set their mind to and not to kind of say that they’re less than anyone else, whether it’s through pay or performance.” 

Vonn has made her mark on the snowboarding world, becoming the first American woman to win four overall World Cup titles and looks to set someone else up for success with her camp. She wanted to create a well-rounded experience for the 11- to 14-year-old girls at the camp, and on top of being paired with a female athlete who has played a collegiate level or higher they are given sessions on financial independence and cyber safety.

Her goal is to be involved with the foundation personally and not just financially. She aims to spend time with each girl over the weekend “I don’t just stick my name on my foundation and [have] other people run it, it’s not about that,” Vonn said. “It’s about helping kids personally, and making a difference in their lives. And that means that I have to be in their life. … Maybe they don’t even know what their goals are, but I want to push them to be the best version of themselves.”