From OpenwaterpediaKaren Gaffney is an open water swimmer who has swam nine miles across Lake Tahoe, swum in the Maui Channel, and was part of a relay team to cross the English Channel. Gaffney was born with Down syndrome, but has also graduated from college and is a passionate advocate for others via the Karen Gaffney Foundation.
Gaffney explains, "I've always been good at swimming and it really helps me to stay more alert, especially in high school and college, it helped me stay awake more and more physically fit."
She starred in Crossing Tahoe: A Swimmer’s Dream, an award-winning documentary by Blueberry Shoes Production, has been featured at the Sprout Film Festival. It tells the story of Karen’s 9-mile, non-stop open water swim across the width of Lake Tahoe, from the eastern shore to the western shore.
She was also featured in Imagine the Possibilities, a Telly Award winning production from Marc Bowen Productions that tells the story of Karen Gaffney and Team Gaffney's relay swim across the English Channel, an amazing story of teamwork and community. This is an upbeat video that celebrates the world’s first successful English Channel Relay swim by a person with Down Syndrome. It is a great video to include in curriculum for understanding abilities and disabilities as well as inclusion in schools and the community. To order a copy of a video "Imagine the Possibilities" for $20.00 ($15 + $5.00 shipping and handling) please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org your name, phone number and shipping address, and we will return your email as soon as possible. If you would like to contact us directly please feel free to call us at +1-503-973-5130.
Karen Gaffney Foundation
As a high school student, Gaffney founded the Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages inclusion for those with Down syndrome, and started The Friends First Network in Portland, Oregon schools to promote diversity awareness. "I really want people to understand that we're more alike than we are different. I just want them to know about the tremendous capabilities of people with Down syndrome and I want to show them what is possible for people like me."
The Karen Gaffney Foundation is entirely funded by honorariums Gaffney receives for her speaking engagements, video sales, contributions from others and grants. She receives no payment personally for her work.
2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Nomination
Karen Gaffney is a champion in every sense of the word: a humble heroine, a remarkable role model, a spectacular speaker. The English Channel relay swimmer has dedicated herself and the tools at her disposal to champion a journey to full inclusion in families, schools, communities and the workplace for people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. With dramatic open water swims to emphasize one’s potential, as well as her speeches, video tapes and resource materials, she constantly installs hope for others with Down syndrome. Her lifestyle proves a full productive and inclusive life is in store for parents and families of a child born with Down syndrome or other learning disabilities. For her swims across Lake Champlain, Lake Tahoe, in Hawaii and in San Francisco Bay, for her ability to 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, Karen Gaffey is a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
Wailea Molokini Challenge
Gaffney headlined the Wailea Molokini Challenge, a charity swim and paddle event in 2011 that benefited Best Buddies Hawaii and Ka Lima O Maui. It raised money and awareness for the diverse population of people with disabilities on Maui. Gaffney swam 6 miles from Wailea Beach on Maui, circumnavigated Molokini volcanic crater island, and then paddled 6 miles back. Gaffney was accompanied by Hawaiian channel swimmer and Maui resident Mike Spalding.