150+ Canadians Day 19: Special Olympics

Image from closing ceremony of the Special Olympics in Austria courtesy of Special Olympics Canada.

The Special Olympics contributes to peace by its celebration of the value, worth and intrinsic dignity of all peoples.#Canada150

Special Olympics Canada is a national organization founded in 1969 to help people with intellectual disabilities develop self-confidence and social skills through sports training and competition. Renowned for his research on intellectual disabilities, Dr. Hayden is hugely involved in Special Olympics Canada. He studied the motivation behind individuals with intellectual disabilities to succeed in sports. Contrary to common belief that these individuals could not participate in sport because of their disabilities, Dr. Hayden proved that it was actually the lack of opportunity that caused their fitness levels to differ from other individuals without intellectual disabilities. With this knowledge, Dr. Hayden proposed the idea of a national sport competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in.

At this time, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was working on creating an organization with the same purpose as Dr. Hayden’s proposal, due to her experience with her sister’s intellectual disability. Shriver reached out to Dr. Hayden and the two (amongst others) collaborated to host an event in Chicago, Illinois, which would be known as the first international Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968. In these games, Canada and the US were the only participating countries. Currently, 170 countries compete in the Special Olympic games across the globe. Dr. Hayden is still involved with Special Olympics Canada.

“Let me win, but if I do not win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Official Special Olympics Athletes’ OathSpecial Olympics Logo and link to website