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Cover Story – Katherine Henderson – Jul/Aug2015

Cover Story - Katherine Henderson - Jul/Aug2015

By Cece Scott

“I embrace life, the journey rather than the destination. The things I put my energy around are much larger than me.”

What stands out about Katherine Henderson, Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Revenue, Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games Organizing Committee, is her all-encompassing commitment to giving back to her own community as well as her unwavering dedication to the global community at large.

At 51, Henderson, who views life as the sum of all of its parts, has managed such high-profile brands as General Mills, Campbell Soup Company and Colgate- Palmolive. A single mother of two, 18 and 14, (her husband passed away ten years ago), Henderson is never too busy to lend a helping hand.

Serving on the Boards of Rugby Canada, Moorelands Community Services, and Toronto East General Hospital, it is clear that Henderson actively practices what she preaches, both on a formal basis as well as at the grassroots level. Often Henderson brings her kids along to help out at different local volunteer initiatives so that they can see what she is involved in and how they too can get involved as part of something bigger.

“I see life as something much larger than me as an individual,” Henderson says. “To enjoy and live a satisfying life is to understand that you have to make contributions, not only to your own life but to others as well. You need to decide in a larger sense what you are going to contribute.”

Rather than setting goals for herself Henderson lives by the principles she sets out for herself, believing that ultimately goals fit into principles, not the other way around.


Some of the transitions in Henderson’s life as she moves through her 50s is manifesting itself in her need to adapt physically to some of the nuances inherent in the aging process. Henderson, who has been a runner for decades says, “When I was younger I would take a day or two off from running if I had an injury. Now, it takes a long time to recover; it gets harder and harder to continue running so I have to adapt to walking fast. I used to have perfect vision but now my life is all about glasses: reading glasses, distance glasses, contacts. I am not a vain person – but things change – and you have to adapt. You lose people that you love and sometimes you think, ‘I wish things would stay the way they are.’ But you just have to keep at it.”

The stereotypes around aging that Henderson thinks are sheer mythology include the perception that because you are aging you are irrelevant, that you have no value, that you don’t understand trends, that your ideas are stuck.

“There is a sense that older people don’t get it, but that has been since time immemorial,” Henderson says. “I do not believe that older people can’t learn new things and apply their wisdom to these new ideas. What I do believe is that people get stubborn and stuck in their ways. As people get older they get much more choosey about what they want to learn and maybe they can get out of date and irrelevant. You have to stay open-minded.”

And while Henderson says that she is happy with where she is right now, she also admits that one thing she misses about her youth is the openness to almost anything that came her way. “That was a pretty exciting time,” Henderson says. “That sense of wonderment that anything could be happening to me at any time. I had some really good chances and took a couple of them when I was younger, but now I tend to frame things a bit more by my responsibilities. While it is hard to hang onto that openness as more responsibilities occur, I do wish that people would cherish an openness as to what is happening around them.”


Henderson’s parents, who are in their 70s, are an iconic power of example for her. “I aspire to be like my parents; they read, they travel, they are constantly learning. They are enjoying a quality of life that in no small part is due to the fact that they spent their life being healthy, and are now reaping the rewards,” Henderson says. “My father instilled in all three of his kids the desire to be curious, learn new things, and take on new challenges. I hope that I continue to be like that as I age.”

Life lessons Henderson has learnt include the fact that most things that are goal-oriented don’t feel as good unless shared with other people. For her, sharing moments with friends makes everyday experiences a million times more valuable. Life balance for Henderson includes making sure that she laughs a lot, connects with others, and engages in positive movement forward every day.

“It’s all about balance,” Henderson says. “I like work; I like discipline. I also like dessert and wine. I like hanging out with my friends and talking. I don’t spend a lot of time over-thinking. You can only feel how you feel. At a certain age you can decide which choices are important to you.”

L to R: Katherine Henderson presents an award to Ashley Steacy for the women’s sevens player of the year at the Rugby Canada Annual General Meeting. Also present, Dawn Daupinee, retired national team player.


Henderson, who was a volunteer for the Canada summer games in Thunder Bay in 1981, (“they had a huge impact on me”), was one of the very first employees hired after the successful Toronto bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

“This is the largest multi-sport event to happen in Canadian history,” Henderson states. “The combination of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is bigger than the winter Olympics as it relates to multi-sports games. There are over 10,000 athletes and officials participating. The last time Ontario had Games this size was the 1930 British Empire Games, (now called the Commonwealth Games); Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne stadium was specifically built to hold those Games.”

While the organizing committee currently encompasses approximately 400-500 people, by the time the Games come there will be over 1,000 employees and 23,000 volunteers. “This isn’t a sprint, it is a marathon. We have got to be ready for it,” Henderson says.

The Pan Am Games, July 10-26, and the Parapan Am Games, August 7-15, will host 52 sports, with 10,000 athletes, in 16 municipalities across the extended Greater Horseshoe imprint, from Welland in the west, to Oshawa in the east, and Minden in the north. Ten new buildings have been erected with approximately 15 renovations to existing structures. Overall, the Games, which will be broadcast across the globe to hundreds and hundreds of millions of people, have created approximately 26,000 jobs through construction, sports tourism, venues, etc. The Province of Ontario estimates the Games will grow the province’s real GDP by $3.7 billion, from 2009 to 2017.


“The Games are good for Canadians. They are an amazing celebration not only for the games but also for the physical, social, and economic infrastructure created,” Henderson says. “With 23,000 volunteers, it is the largest volunteer calling in the history of Canada in peace time. It leaves a legacy of volunteerism.”

Henderson says that the fiscal legacy left behind by the Games is significant, because the venues built or renovated for the Games will provide some badly needed infrastructure to support not only the communities that they are located in but also training facilities for athletes who currently have to travel outside of their community to train. “They are meant to serve the community by the enormous social and economic legacy that they leave,” Henderson says.

Henderson is not sure at this point what’s next for her once the Games are completed, but she is definitely certain about one thing. “There are no retirement plans for me in any way, shape, or form.”

Four Pan Am Games Athletes share their enthusiasm with Cece Scott

Brittney Page

Captain of the Canadian Women’s
Volleyball Team Indoor
Vernon, British Columbia
EVENT: Women’s Volleyball (Indoor)

Team ranks sixth in NORCECA zone (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation)

“When the National Anthem is played at the beginning of each game, it is a reminder of how privileged we are to be representing Canada and how much work I’ve put in to be in that position. I really don’t take a moment for granted,” says Brittney.

As hosts for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the women’s volleyball team did not have to compete in specific events in order to qualify for the Games. However, because they do not play as a team all winter, the challenge for each player to make sure they perform at the top of their game is intense.

“Every player is so talented that if you let up for a moment your spot could be taken. I try to compete and beat out someone at something every day,” Brittney says. “It will be a special atmosphere in Toronto; we want to soak up every moment and represent Canada the best we can.”

Brittney credits her mother, a single parent of three, and her sisters for giving her the confidence and encouragement to compete at professional levels.

“We have to ensure that the pressure of that one moment doesn’t interfere with our mindset when we get onto the field.” Rosannagh (Rosie) MacLennan, Trampoline & Synchronized Trampoline

Rosannagh (Rosie) MacLennan

King City, Ontario
EVENT: Trampoline & Synchronized Trampoline

Along with her three medals at the last four world championships in the women’s individual event, Rosie holds two World Cup gold medals as well as a gold from the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Rosie also won Canada’s only gold medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Rosie, who has been training hard for 18 years, credits her parents for enrolling her in a wide variety of sports and activities when she was little, which in turn allowed her to narrow her single-mindedness down to the discipline that she now tackles with all-encompassing passion.

“When things aren’t going as well as I would like, that is when I focus on the journey and lessons that can be gained from the struggle. If we compete for results, for that one moment, we miss out on the entire journey it has taken to get there; the journey is where the most value is gained,” says Rosie.

Canada’s Pan Am trampoline team of four athletes holds five Olympic medals and five Pan Am medals. Canadians are defending both the women’s and the men’s title for the Pan Am Games.

Tiffany Foster and Verdi III

Tiffany Foster
Schomberg, Ontario
EVENT: Equestrian Show Jumper

The Canadian Equestrian Senior team has had a top-three placing in every major Nations Cup event since the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2014. The Canadian team won the Nations Cup at the Spruce Meadows Masters last September and had an unprecedented second-place finish in the Furusiyya Nations Cup World Final in Barcelona last October. In February of this year, the team of Tiffany Foster, Eric Lamaze, Ian Millar, and Jonathan Millar won second place at Wellington (Florida) Nations Cup.

Tiffany credits her training with Eric Lamaze, (Olympic Gold Medalist, Show Jumping, Beijing Olympic Games), as the paradigm influencer in her successful track forward.

“Show jumping can be a very discouraging sport at times,” Tiffany says. “It’s not like tennis or a team sport where there is one winner and one loser every match. The wins happen a relatively small amount of the time considering how many rounds we jump a year. Important psychological tools for me are resilience and positivity. It’s great to have such supportive backing in the Canadian Equestrian Team. They are behind me 100 percent; it makes me want to fight even harder for them the next round.”

Ryan Cochrane

Victoria, British Columbia
EVENT: Freestyle Distance Swimming

Ryan Cochrane is one of Canada’s most decorated swimmers of all time. With two Olympic medals, (silver and bronze), and a silver in the 1,500-metre freestyle at the 2013 FNA World, Ryan holds six world championships overall, a Canadian record. He is only the second man in history to double-medal in the 800-metre freestyle and 1,500-metre freestyle at three straight worlds (2009, 2011, 2013).

“It’s exciting to see how far you can push yourself. I always get butterflies in my stomach, but I’m always excited to race; that’s what I’ve trained for all year,” Ryan says. “With the Olympics you could hear how loud the crowd was, it shook the whole building. It can be devastating if you are not used to the pressure but it can also be such a big motivator. If you can use it to your benefit, it can make you a much better athlete.”

Ryan, who has never swam in the Pan Am Games, says that for him training is habitual, with 24 hours a week in the pool and an additional hour or two daily outside the pool, weight to dry land training, and meeting with doctors and psychologists.

Ryan’s 10 years of experience on the international level should help him attain his next goal to represent Canada as a gold medalist in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“It’s a short career as an athlete so you want to make sure that every second counts,” Ryan says. “Competing at home motivates you to do more than you ever thought possible. We dream of sharing our experiences as athletes with Canadians.”

PAN AM GAMES July 10 –26

For the schedule of events and locations, visit