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 speaking engagements, workshops, and donations, is dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, the workplace, and the community for people with intellectual 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. In 2007, she accomplished her biggest swimming challenge yet…she swam 9-miles across Lake Tahoe in 59-degree water and became the subject of the documentary, “Crossing Tahoe: A Swimmer’s Dream.” She has done many other open water swims on the Columbia River, across Lake Champlain, the Boston Harbor, and San Francisco Bay just to name a few. All of her swims are fund raising swims, and swims to raise awareness about what people with Down syndrome CAN do!
Karen addresses audiences all over the world, about overcoming limitations and about what can be accomplished with positive expectations. She is also an outspoken advocate for on going medical research aimed at improving the lives of those who are living with Down syndrome.
Karen is the first person with Down syndrome to deliver a TED talk to one of the largest TEDx venues in the world. She describes her life as a “Journey of Hope” while she calls attention to the tremendous accomplishments of people living with Down syndrome all over the world. Karen’s messages provide awareness, recognition, and inspiration that Down syndrome is a Life Worth Living!