FDR became paralyzed from the waist down after he contracted polio in 1921. Treatment was of little help, until three years later when he came across a spa in Warm Springs, Georgia.
The mineral waters at the spa were said to have therapeutic powers. And after a six week stay, FDR was convinced he had made more progress in his rehab than at any time in the previous three years.
By 1926, the facility was struggling financially. So FDR purchased it.
Then he opened the resort to people from all over the country. They could come for treatment and for community.
Eventually however, the financial burdens of the retreat became too great for FDR and a few friends alone. So the group came up a with a plan to use FDR’s birthday celebrations to raise money for the center.
1934 was the first celebration. That year, they raised more than a million dollars.
Source (along with some text directly):http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/aboutfdr/birthday.html