The formation of the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation was conceived in 1980 in order to concentrate efforts and support in the areas of research and scholarship. Karen Goldenberg, then the Chair of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists' Generation of Revenue Committee, proposed the concept of the Foundation and worked toward its incorporation.

It was necessary that COTF be established as a legal entity, separate from CAOT, in order to provide receipts for donations. This separation would allow CAOT to focus on its mandate to set standards, organize, represent and govern the profession. The Foundation would focus on generating, receiving and maintaining funds and developing mechanisms for awarding grants to individuals and organizations for research, scholarships and publications.

On May 17, 1983, the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation became a reality when it was incorporated under letters patent by the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs of Canada. The first Board of Governors consisted of three prominent occupational therapists: Karen Goldenberg, President; Dr. Thelma Cardwell, Vice-President; and Dr. Isobel Robinson, Secretary/Treasurer.

Funds to cover start-up costs were loaned to the Foundation by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. An appeal for donations was made, and specific donor categories were established for individuals and organizations. National support was evident by the fact that all provincial occupational therapy organizations became Provincial Benefactors. Individuals made pledges to fulfill their chosen donor categories over a period of five to ten years.

The Foundation began with volunteer manpower only. In 1984, a paid staff position was created, that of a part-time Executive Coordinator. The Foundation shared CAOT's office space and resources. In 1985, CAOT and COTF embarked on a closer liaison designed to provide stronger support to the growing Foundation. It was decided that CAOT would cover COTF's annual administrative budget, including the Executive Coordinator's salary and part-time access to a CAOT secretary.

Committee structures were developed to administer grants and generate funds. Fund raising advice was sought and indicated that the initial donor targets should be members of the occupational therapy community. Funds were generated by this community through special events such as the Silent Auction at the CAOT Annual Conference, through product sales, a donor card program and through donation campaigns such as the annual direct mail campaign.

In 1984, COTF offered its first awards to Canadian occupational therapists embarking on graduate education and research studies. The first Publication Grant was awarded in 1985.

The Board of Governors grew to a body of ten governors and three ex-officio members. In 1987, the first non-occupational therapist joined the Board, providing a valuable perspective and infusion of new ideas.

In 1992 in anticipation of the tenth anniversary and to help COTF prepare for the next phase in the development of COTF, a consulting firm knowledgeable in fundraising was hired to make recommendations and outline a plan for further developing the fundraising capabilities of COTF. In 1993, following the recommendations of the report, the first professional fund-raiser was hired.

From its creation, COTF had always shared office space and facilities with CAOT. In anticipation of the move of the CAOT to Ottawa, the Board considered the implications to the COTF of moving to Ottawa with CAOT and determined that the mandate of COTF could be better met by staying in Toronto. In 1995, COTF sublet an office at 55 Eglinton Avenue East from the Toronto Occupational Therapy Associates.

The Thelma Cardwell Scholarship fund was the first named fund of the Foundation. It was established at the time of incorporation in honour of Dr. Thelma Cardwell on the occasion of her retirement from the Occupational Therapy Division of the University of Toronto.

Provincial organizations were anxious to establish their own named funds with COTF and occupational therapists also initiated funds in honour of their colleagues.




1985 Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists Research Fund

1986 CAOT Anniversary Fund

1989 Alberta Association of Occupational Therapists Research Fund

1989 Nova Scotia Society of Occupational Therapists Education and
         Research Fund

1989 Hovis Medical Award

1989 Invacare Canada Award

1990 Mental Health Research Fund

1990 Enid Perry Environmental Research Grant

1993 British Columbia Society of Occupational Therapists Research

1994 Janice Hines Memorial Fund

1994 Manitoba Society of Occupational Therapists Research Fund

1999 Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Occupational
         Therapists Research Fund

2000 Marita Dyrbye Memorial Fund

2002 New Brunswick Association of Occupational Therapists
          Research Fund

2003 Saskatchewan Society of Occupational Therapists Research

2004 Isobel Robinson Historical Research Fund

2004 COTF/Roulston Innovation Award

2005 Critical Literature Review Grants

2006 J.V. Cook and Associates Qualitative Research Award

2008 Prince Edward Island Society of Occupational Therapists
          Research Fund

2008 COTF Future Scholar Award

In 1996 in honour of the tenth anniversary of COTF, the foundation published “A Decade of Advancement in Occupational Therapy” that highlighted the work of the recipients of COTF awards for research, scholarship, publication and volunteer contributions.

In 1998, in honour of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists’ 12th Congress held in Montréal Canada, COTF published the “COTF Case Study Review: Outcomes that Matter” and distributed copies to all the delegates attending the WFOT Congress. COTF also provided scholarships for Canadian occupational therapists to help defray the costs of attending the Congress to participate in the proceedings of the international meeting.

From 1990 to 2003 COTF administered a gerontology scholarship program for the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL). Because of the decrease in Legion revenues and a change in program focus, the Royal Canadian Legion Gerontology Fellowships ended in early 2003. Thirty-one $5,000 fellowships were disbursed under the Legion fellowship program.

In 1998, COTF established a partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation (HSCF) to create a pediatric scholarship program. In its second year, the partnership expanded to include Easter Seal, Ontario Division and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The program awarded sixteen grants ranging from $5,000 to $48,500. Launched in 1998, the program was terminated in 2003 because the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation had changed its funding priorities.

In 1999, COTF moved its offices to 150 Eglinton Avenue East and launched its website at www.cotfcanada.org. The focal piece of the website was the Manulife Resource Centre which houses COTF publications and information of interest to the occupational therapy community. Funding for the website development was provided by a grant from Manulife Financial. 1999 also marked the launch of the “Outcomes that Matter to Canadians” research project, funded in partnership with the Max Bell Foundation. This project provided $182,500 for outcomes-based research and critical literature reviews.

In 2000, COTF published “Care in the Home and Community: Case Study Review 2000” which was distributed to therapists at the Canadian Adaptive Seating and Mobility Conference held in September in Toronto. The Foundation’s 20th anniversary was previewed with the launch in March 2002 of the From Evidence to Action Campaign to raise funds for scholarship and research. The Presidents’ Council was formed to provide leadership to the campaign. The Council, which includes all COTF Presidents and founding Governors, set a $200,000 target for the campaign. The launch was announced at a reception attended by donors and funders and was held in conjunction with the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting. At that time, the Foundation’s new logo was unveiled.

The Foundation initiated a strategic planning workshop in late 2001 and the ideas generated were the subject of discussion throughout the year. The initiative resulted in an updating of the Foundation’s mission and vision statements, as follows:

Mission: To advance the understanding of occupation and its enablement by funding scholarship to build capacity and research to build knowledge

Vision: Meaningful daily occupation for all Canadians

In early 2002, the Foundation undertook extensive work in cataloguing its grants by area of practice. In March, as part of a University of Toronto Clinical Master’s student’s research project, the Foundation conducted an outcomes survey of its grant recipients. This survey demonstrated the following outcomes:

  • 95% felt it was important to have a funding agency dedicated to occupational therapy

  • 42% agreed that COTF funding allowed their project to proceed

  • 67% felt that COTF funding gave them the confidence to apply for other awards

  • 45% felt that COTF funding helped them secure funding from another source

  • 62% have a Master’s degree and 22% have a PhD

  • 47% have academic appointments

  • 23% spend more than half their time conducting research

That same year, COTF began discussing the relocation of the Foundation office to the CAOT National Office in Ottawa. After consultations and research, the Board engaged a volunteer consultant to assist them in decision-making. In December 2002, the Board of Governors approved the relocation to Ottawa. It created a Transition Planning Team consisting of COTF and CAOT Presidents and staff to oversee the move implementation.

In early 2003 the Transition Planning Team developed Partnership, Donation and Service agreements, 5 year budgets and financial plans, operations plan and developed position descriptions for the new staff in Ottawa. The office at 150 Eglinton Avenue East closed down in July and the Executive Director managed the Foundation from a home office. The hiring process for an Executive Director in Ottawa began in August. This was the last year of the Sunrise Medical Games, from which COTF used to receive a portion of the revenue.

In January 2004, COTF’s new Executive Director began in the Ottawa office (CTTC Building, 3401-1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5R1) which is shared with CAOT. In February, a new Executive Assistant was also hired. Both staff were hired half-time. Staff from both organizations benefit from the opportunity to work with each other regularly, share ideas and resources. COTF has been able to significantly streamline operations and related expenses. COTF has developed strong ties with CAOT as both organizations work towards similar goals. The synergy has enabled COTF to become more actively involved in occupational therapy issues by having representation at more committees (Evidence Based Management Team, Leadership Forum, Occupational Therapy Council of Canada). COTF has had the opportunity to hold its Annual General Meeting at the CAOT Annual General Conference. This decision is beneficial because more donors are able to attend the AGM. COTF continues to hold fundraising events at the conference (Silent Auction and Lunch with a Scholar). In 2004, the Isobel Robinson Historical Research Grant was introduced as well as the COTF/Roulston Innovation Award. It was also the first year of the fundraising Art Show which was held in Toronto.

In 2005, COTF in collaboration with CAOT, introduced the Critical Literature Review Grants. CAOT was given the first right of refusal of the publication of any works to be published by COTF award recipients. COTF partnered with the Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada on the Art Show for the next three years. A partnership was signed with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for a doctoral research award in the amount of $66,000 over three years for 2005, 2006 and 2007. Such a partnership enabled COTF to provide larger awards to occupational therapists.

In 2006, in Montréal, the Live Auction was reintroduced successfully to COTF’s fundraising activities. A partnership was signed with the Sick Kids Hospital of Toronto for two Master’s Scholarships in the fall of 2006 and 2007 and the winter of 2007 and 2008. Each scholarship was worth $5,000.

2007 was the last year of the Invacare Golf Tournament, from which COTF received a share of the revenue proceeds. COTF met its goal of increasing the unrestricted fund by $80,000 in April of 2007, 18 months ahead of target. For the next five year period, COTF will work to increase it by $100,000. A studentship was launched with CIHR’s Institute of Aging in the amount of $4,950 for 2007 and 2008 as well as travel awards for 2007 and 2009 in the amount of $1,000.

2008 marked COTF’s 25th anniversary which was celebrated on November 7 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel. The logo was changed, and work has begun on redesigning the web site and overall look of COTF. COTF introduced the COTF Future Scholar Award to mark the 25th anniversary. CIHR-IA partnered with COTF on a Research Grant through COTF’s competition.