Sunday, December 9, 2012

Karen Gaffney, one of my heroes

I had the honor to meet Karen Gaffney and her father when Davey and Will were five weeks old at a conference.  I was a new parent with five week old twins.  David and I attended the conference at the invitation of our local Down Syndrome group in Reno. It was our first real experience meeting people and families with children who have special needs.  Karen Gaffney and her father were two of the speakers at the conference.  David, the boys and I ran into Karen and her dad in the elevator after hearing her speak.  I think it was one of the first times I had spoken to a person with Down Syndrome.

Here is a little bit about Karen Gaffney and the foundation that she and her family have created.


The Karen Gaffney Foundation is a non profit organization that is dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, communities and the workplace for people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. Through a series of personal appearances, motivating speeches, video tapes and resource materials Karen Gaffney, a young woman with Down syndrome, and others like her will...Instill renewed hope for a full productive and inclusive life in the hearts and minds of new parents of a child born with Down syndrome or other learning disability.
Motivate parents to new thinking and positive action so they will begin immediately building the potential of their child day by day;
Heighten awareness and raise expectations of students, counselors, educators and those in the medical profession of the capabilities of children with Down syndrome to learn, grow and contribute in an inclusive setting;
Promote community involvement and action for the support of people with disabilities.

How did it all start?
Getting started on a non-profit organization that is focused on the vast POTENTIAL of our family members born with Down syndrome was the brainchild of Dr. Jean Edwards, Professor Emeritus, from Portland State University.
We were fortunate to meet up with Jean early on in Karen’s preschool years. She was a tremendous advocate for early intervention and inclusion in a regular classroom setting as much as possible. Her theme was “readiness”. What do we need to do to get our children ready for inclusion at whatever phase of life is upon us.
Jean Edwards was a mentor to us as we navigated our way through her early education years. When Karen was attending high school at St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland, she was a few blocks from the Portland State University Campus. Jean regularly included Karen as a guest speaker when she was teaching students a curriculum dealing with the “Exceptional Learner”.
When Karen was a senior in high school, she had to complete a “senior project” that required teaming up with a member of the community. Jean and Karen collaborated on a project with the goal to bring positive information to families, friends and educators about the potential for children born with Down syndrome. Through the course of the project, they designed and developed the video, “Journey of a Lifetime, Beginning with the End in Mind”. In addition to the video, they teamed up to form the non-profit organization to continue the effort that started with Karen’s senior project.
Karen’s non profit, the Karen Gaffney Foundation is entirely funded by honorariums she receives for her speaking engagements, video sales, contributions from others and grants. Karen takes no payment personally for her work. Any money she receives goes into the foundation to help fund her work.

Karen Gaffney competes in open water swimming.  She is known world wide for her talent as an open water swimmer.
Now, Karen is being nominated for an honor.  And you have the chance to support her.

2012 WOWSA Woman of the Year Nominees

The 2012 WOWSA Woman of the Year nominees are
(listed in alphabetical order of their first name):
1. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil), World Professional Marathon Champion
2. Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden), Oceans Seven Swimmer
3. Annaleise Carr (Canada), Young Marathon Swimmer
4. Catherine Vogt (USA), Dual Olympic Coach
5. Diana Nyad (USA), Xtreme Dreamer
6. Esther Nuñez Morera (Spain), Professional Marathon Swimming Champion
7. Grace van der Byl (USA), Marathon Record Breaker
8. Janel Jorgensen McArdle (USA), Swim Across America President
9. Julia Washbourne (Hong Kong), Eco-Swimming Aquapreneur
10. Karen Gaffney (USA), Swimming Philanthropist
11. Keri-Anne Payne (Great Britain), British Open Water Icon
12. Pat Gallant-Charette (USA), Channel Swimming Late Bloomer
13. Risztov Éva (Hungary), Olympic Champion
14. Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia), Pioneering Administrator
15. Tina Neill (USA), San Clemente Channel Swimmer

Click this LINK to vote for Karen.

Be gentle.

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