Special Olympics Nova Scotia Dinner and Auction

Ladies and gentlemen, guests, friends, thank you so much for including me here today.  I am so happy to return to my maritime roots.  I feel at home in Halifax.  And I always feel at home at Special Olympics events.

Special Olympics is a wonderful family and anyone who gets involved is sure to get a warm welcome and a hug.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe things happen for a reason. The reason I’m here with you tonight goes back 42 years to 1968, the year the first Special Olympics Games were played on Soldier Field in Chicago.  Just a month before those games, a little child came into the world.  A little boy with Downs’ Syndrome and his name was Timothy James Alexander Munson.  My first son.  Timmy would have been a grown man today – middle-aged even, had he not passed away before his first birthday of pneumonia.

So you see, within one month, 42 years ago, a Special Olympian – My Special Olympian – was born and the Special Olympics movement was born too.

Four decades later the world is a different place today for people with intellectual disabilities.

And I think we can all agree that it is a better place, a more accepting place, more loving, and more inclusive.  One of the reasons for this is Special Olympics.  The Special Olympics movement through sport, fun and camaraderie, rips away the label of disability and shows us an athlete, a teammate, an opponent, a friend.  A Person.  A person with talent, potential, and huge heart.

Things happen for a reason, as I said, and another reason I’m here tonight is to introduce you to the man who did so much to remove that label of disability so the athlete could emerge.  That person is Dr. Frank Hayden.

It is an honour to introduce this great Canadian, whose story is quite typical of Canada.  It’s the story of an unassuming person doing his job, showing compassion and great faith, and along the way, making the world a better place.  And of course, it wouldn’t be a truly Canadian story if it didn’t involve hockey.

At the beginning of his career, Dr. Hayden was given the challenge of studying fitness in children with intellectual disabilities. As part of his research he went to the Beverly school in Toronto where Harold Smith had formed a floor hockey team for the intellectually disabled boys at the school.  This was seven years before the first Special Olympics Games in Chicago.

What Dr. Hayden saw at the Beverly school inspired him.

Now, we have to travel back in time for a minute.  This is the early 1960s when people with intellectual disabilities were often institutionalized and nearly always marginalized.  No one thought they should take part in sport.  As a result, most intellectually disabled people were out of shape.

But that day, Dr. Hayden saw what sport could do.  He saw better fitness. But he saw something else.  He saw a team with players who showed camraderie, goal setting, and pride.

Well, as I said at the beginning.

Everything happens for a reason and Dr. Hayden’s groundbreaking research and his faith in the benefits of sport for intellectually disabled people provided the scientific foundation for the Special Olympics movement which was then spearheaded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her family.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

I think we can honestly say that thanks to Dr. Hayden the world is a better place.  With more than three million people, worldwide, having a chance to show themselves, their family, friends, communities, and even the world, how much they can achieve.

Here in Nova Scotia Special Olympics has come a long way since 1978 when George and Alicia Thorne started things up around their kitchen table.  Now there are more than 1,200 athletes in 15 regions of Nova Scotia who have a chance to compete in sport.

So I’ll stop now and let Dr. Hayden tell his own story.  I think that’s the reason you’re here tonight.  His story is one every Canadian should be proud of.  It’s one we should all know.

But first we’ll watch a short video to give us some insights into this story.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming, Dr. Frank Hayden.