Our History

Young girls with physical disabilities are seating together in this black and white photo circa 1950s.

In 1957, our community celebrated the beginning of a brighter future for children and youth with special needs as the doors opened for the first time at the K-W Rotary Children’s Centre.

The journey to this moment began in the ’20s when local Rotarians first made the decision to dedicate themselves to serving children with special needs. During those formative years between 1922 to 1957, Rotary Club members organized medical clinics, transported children to Toronto hospitals when they couldn’t be seen locally, and fundraised to buy equipment and pay for medical services. Rotarians knew that a local and permanent facility was needed for this growing community. As a result, the North Waterloo Society for Crippled Children was formed to oversee the formation and operations of what was to become KidsAbility. Our foundation that was laid back in 1957 by Rotary has provided local children and youth with special needs and their families the support and services that they need to live richer, fuller and more inclusive lives.

In the beginning, KidsAbility was focused on children with physical disabilities – our School was known as the Kitchener Cerebral Palsy School Board! As our community grew and the needs of children evolved, so too did KidsAbility. Over time, we added sites and two classrooms in Cambridge, as well as sites in Guelph, Fergus and Waterloo. KidsAbility’s services were broadened to meet the needs of our families, offering a variety of services such as social work, autism services, family support groups, augmentative communication, feeding clinics, therapeutic recreation, sibling support and developmental pediatrics to better meet the complex needs of our children and youth.

In the ’90s, KidsAbility saw an increase in the number of children waiting for services. Knowing that the need would only grow, a decision was made to establish KidsAbility Foundation whose focus would be on raising much-needed funds and awareness to enable KidsAbility to see as many children as possible. These funds enable KidsAbility to continue to attract top talent, provide innovative programs and specialized equipment and technology.

When we look back on over six decades of service to our community, we think of the many stories made possible through the continued partnership of KidsAbility, KidsAbility Foundation and KidsAbility School Authority. We remain forever grateful for the support of Rotary, our staff, volunteers, community partners, funders and donors that have empowered over 90,000 children and youth with special needs to realize their full potential. As we look to the future we ask: What will the next 60 years bring?

We will continue to grow, innovate and realize our own potential so that we can continue to help those we serve reach their own. 

Take a look back on 60 Years of Potential Realized, a book created in 2017 to honour six decades of continued service to our community.