In the early 1960s, testing of children with intellectual disabilities revealed that they were only half as physically fit as their peers who did not have intellectual disabilities. It was assumed that their low fitness levels were a direct result of their intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Frank Hayden, a Toronto researcher, questioned this assumption. His research showed that if provided the opportunity, those with intellectual disabilities could acquire the physical skills necessary to participate in sport and to become physically fit.
Dr. Hayden began searching for ways to develop a national sports program for people with intellectual disabilities. His work came to the attention of the Kennedy Foundation in Washington, DC and led to the formation of Special Olympics.
The first Special Olympics sports competition was held in Chicago in 1968. To ensure Canada's representation at the competition, Dr. Hayden called on Harry 'Red' Foster, a renowned broadcaster, businessman and humanitarian, for support. Mr. Foster accompanied a Special Olympics floor hockey team from Toronto to the competition.
Inspired by his experience and by the potential of Special Olympics to enrich the lives of those with intellectual disabilities, Mr. Foster began laying the foundation for the Special Olympics movement in Canada.
In 1969, the first Canadian Special Olympics event was held in Toronto.