GSMP 2015 Site Visits: Caroline Maher at Ketchum

By Brian Canever October 05, 2015

Located in the heart of Manhattan’s garment district, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment is anything but conventional. One of the nation’s leading sports public relations firms, its entrepreneurial spirit emanates from its neat Midtown location.

Drs. Sarah Hillyer and Ashleigh Huffman, co-directors of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, and I visited Ketchum S&E on the eighth Site Visit of the 2015 U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program. In a conference room near a wall bearing the superimposed words of Coco Chanel, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different,” we sat down to talk with Kerry Ruggieri and Sofia Lombardo-Ramos, vice presidents of the company, and emerging leader Caroline Maher.

The most decorated female athlete in Egyptian history, Caroline was eager to discuss what she has learned from her mentors, and the ways she plans to use sport to empower the 15 to 17 million people with disabilities in her country. She recounted memories from her own career training alongside para-athletes at Egypt’s Olympic Center, and the admiration she felt for their work ethic, commitment and talent.

“I used to see those inspiring athletes and their achievements and it ignited my passion for disability sports,” Caroline said. “All the difficulties we face in Egypt, not having accessible transportation or roads, and these athletes still came every week to training camp to compete for the Paralympics and bring home a lot of medals.”

Working as a human resources manager for Peugeot Egypt and HELM, an NGO that places Egyptians with disabilities in permanent jobs, Caroline wants to find creative ways to implement sports programs that teach life skills, and promote health and wellness.

“The research shows that people with disabilities are much more creative in the workplace,” Caroline said. “They have better problem solving skills and they don’t give up easily.”

Kerry and Sofia have been impressed by Caroline’s vision and are using their considerable PR experience to help develop and market her ideas. Serving as mentors to Caroline has also brought newfound meaning and inspiration to their own work.

“Just getting the opportunity to meet a woman like Caroline who has accomplished so much in her time on this planet really gives me the opportunity to appreciate what I do,” Sofia said. “It has shown me that I have the power to do so much more in my career and it doesn’t stop with corporate sponsorships or media relations.”

“There are a few projects in your life that you’ll never forget because they have such a lasting impact,” Kerry continued. “To know that Sofia and I will be able to stay in contact with Caroline over the years as she pushes her ideas forward is exciting. If I can tell my kids in 10 years that I had this tiny hand in making change halfway across the world in Egypt, that totally goes down as one of the most remarkable moments of my career.”

Listen to the Center’s podcast conversation with Caroline, Kerry and Sofia at the link below