Occasionally, we have had the pleasure of hearing a guest speaker at the parent chat on Saturday afternoon at the Star Gazers family camp. One year, our guest speaker was Karen Gaffney.
Karen Gaffney is the first person with Down syndrome to swim the English Channel as part of a relay team. She accomplished this feat in the summer of 2001.
Karen trained vigorously and relentlessly for more than a year to prepare for the notoriously rough 21-mile crossing from Dover, England to Calais, France. Karen's training gave her the endurance she required to swim two or three one-hour legs in 60-degree water, the strength she wanted to battle wind and waves, and the speed she needed to pull herself through the water faster than the current.
Also of note is Karen's educational background. In 1997, Karen graduated from St. Mary's Academy, a prestigious college prep school in Portland, Oregon, where she earned a regular high school diploma. In 2001, she graduated from Portland Community College, where she obtained an Associate of Science degree and received her teacher's aide certification.
Karen is the president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, 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 this foundation, Karen strives to:
- instill renewed hope in the hearts and minds of new parents of a child born with Down syndrome or other learning disability for a full, productive, and inclusive life
- motivate parents to new thinking and positive action so they will begin immediately to build the potential of their child
- 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
source: Karen Gaffney Foundation
Karen delivered a motivating speech at Star Gazers. We were impressed and inspired by what she already has accomplished in her life...and encouraged to consider the myriad of possibilities and opportunities life holds for our dear ones with Down syndrome.