History of Special Olympics in Alberta


Incorporated on February 28, 1980, Special Olympics Alberta has built a tradition of support and opportunity for people in Alberta with intellectual disabilities. In 1980, the organization hosted its first Provincial Summer Games.

Parents and families of athletes have been the driving force behind the Special Olympics movement around the world and the same is true in Alberta. Parents who wanted sport opportunities for their children started the first programs in many communities.

The first Special Olympics programs were started by dedicated parents and volunteers in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer even before a provincial organization was founded.

In 1986, Alberta took center stage, hosting our first Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Calgary. Over 1,000 athletes and coaches from across Canada were welcomed with cheering fans in McMahon Stadium. The flame of hope carried by over 12,000 Canadians across the country ignited not just the beginning of competition but an impassioned movement in Alberta.

Dr. Frank Hayden the builder of Special Olympics

Transforming the World

Dr. Hayden’s proposal for a National sport competition caught the attention of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, serving as inspiration for the inaugural Special Olympics competition in 1968 in Chicago. Canada was represented by a group of 12 students and a teacher from the Beverley School, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs captain George Armstrong, serving as Honorary Team Captain.

Dr. Hayden also served as the Chicago event’s General Director and eventually went on to work for the Washington-based Kennedy Foundation as the Director of Physical Education and Recreation, working alongside Ms. Kennedy Shriver.

Harry “Red” Foster, a Canadian broadcast legend and philanthropist, was in Chicago in 1968 to witness the birth of the Special Olympics movement. He was inspired by what he saw and experienced, and worked tirelessly to bring this global force back to Canada.