From 1973, until her death in 1994, Isabell Cavallin dedicated her life to training and coaching athletes with mental challenges, and was instrumental in establishing the Special Olympics in British Columbia.

In 1970, Isabell Cavallin formed the BC Sports for the Retarded, a non-profit society whose mandate was to raise funds to assist BC athletes with mental handicaps to compete at a various athletic competitions. In 1974, with the backing of this society, a group of athletes from BC competed for the first time at a Canadian Special Olympics event.

Isabell formed the Burnaby Athletic Club in 1973, with the vision of providing year-round athletic opportunities to individuals with mental challenges. Although her focus was on track and field events, she soon added such sports as soccer, baseball, bowling and swimming, working hard to provide all of her athletes with sound coaching, proper equipment and team uniforms. Athletes from the Burnaby Athletic Club competed at four national Special Olympic events (Winnipeg ’74; Regina ’78; Ottawa ’82; and Calgary ’86) and at two international events (Brockport, N.Y. ’79; and Baton Rouge, La. ’83), with Isabell beside them as coach.

An important pioneer in the Special Olympics movement in B.C., Isabell was a founding member of the provincial organization when it incorporated in 1980, and she continued as a volunteer until 1987. Her efforts live on through a legacy fund set up by her husband, Roy, at Langara College. It is the first scholarship of its kind established to assist female athletes in their pursuit of excellence.