Karen Gaffney is a Global Down Syndrome Foundation Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award recipient and the President of the Karen Gaffney Foundation. Her non-profit, funded entirely by Gaffney’s service sales and earned grants, is dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, the workplace, and the community for people with developmental disabilities. Many of the organization’s programs and events were inspired by Gaffney’s personal experiences, such as the Friends First™ Club, which helps facilitate friendships and bridge the social gap between students with and without disabilities.
Gaffney graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon and earned a two-year Associates of Science degree from Portland Community College. Gaffney is also an avid swimmer. She successfully swam the English Channel as part of a six-person relay team. Two years ago, she accomplished her biggest swimming Challenge yet…she swam 9-miles across Lake Tahoe in 59-degree water to raise money for the National Down Syndrome Congress and to show the world that people with Down syndrome are more alike, rather than different, from everyone else.
Gaffney travels the country speaking to a wide range of audiences about overcoming limitations and about what can be accomplished with positive expectations. Gaffney’s goal is to create awareness and call attention to the tremendous capabilities of all people who are differently-abled.