Special Olympics Canada Mourns the Passing of Marion Hayden: A Champion of Inclusion and Beloved Friend of the Movement

[Toronto, May 15, 2024]

It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of Marion Hayden, a cherished member of our Special Olympics family. Her passing will be deeply felt by all who had the privilege of knowing her.

Marion was not only the beloved wife of Dr. Frank Hayden, a founding figure of the Special Olympics movement; she was a pillar of support and an unwavering advocate for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities across Canada. Her boundless compassion, generosity and friendship has touched the lives of countless individuals within our community over the past nearly six decades.

Marion's partnership with Frank was a testament to love, companionship and shared purpose. Together, they embarked on a journey that transformed the landscape of inclusive sport, leaving a lasting impact for generations to come. Marion’s support dates all the way back to 1968, at the inaugural Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago.

“It was the two of us, alone, with a microphone on the goal line. We ran those first Games. We were there all day long – never left,” Dr. Frank recalled of that time with Marion.

Now, the Special Olympics movement has grown to serve millions of athletes around the world. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hayden family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time. May they find solace in the enduring legacy of love and kindness that Marion leaves behind – she will be missed by so many.

Marion Hayden, Remembered Always

Marion Joanne Hayden [May 11, 2024]. It is with great sadness that we announce the passing at age 89 of Marion Hayden, beloved wife, mother and grandmother, retired teacher and accomplished pianist. Marion leaves behind her dearly cherished husband and devoted partner of almost 67 years, Frank; her children Jamie (Lesley Thomson), Laura (Jim Thomson); Murn (Peter Meyrick) and Sean (Megan Shelstad); together with her grandchildren Kelly (Brennan); Scott (Sydney); Danielle (Anthony); Lauren (Chase), Tyler, Luke and Clayton; and 3 great-grandchildren. Marion was predeceased by her brother, John, and sister, Carol. Marion was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She completed a Bachelor of Music, Diploma in Education and Certification as a teacher from the University of Toronto, followed by an Associate Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Ontario in piano performance, one of the highest academic standings awarded by the Royal Conservatory’s Certificate Program. Marion was a devoted, tireless and much loved kindergarten teacher for many years. She played piano, including accompanist for both competitive musicians, and theater productions. She was a forever companion, supporter, and right hand to her husband Frank, a sports scientist, creator and developer of the Special Olympics. She traveled the world by Frank’s side, and it is without a doubt that his incredible accomplishments would not have been possible, nor so much fun, without Marion. Their life together was a love story only found in movies. On the home front, Marion organized and corralled their 4 children through endless activities. She participated in the daily family runs, always the rabbit to Frank’s tortoise. She embraced fitness classes as the decades brought in new and different things, doing back to back classes at the YMCA into her 70s. She was full of energy, life and love. She will be truly missed by all who knew her. A private celebration of Marion’s life will be held by the family at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Special Olympics.