Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways.  Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women.  There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them.  Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include?  I welcome your suggestions.  You can access all the previous postings of these remarkable women from the menu at the top of my site.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, so I honor an outstanding woman in advocacy.  Meet Dr. Karen Gaffney.

photo10bDr. Karen Gaffney

Karen Gaffney is the president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon “dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.” In 2001 she became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a relay swim of the English Channel. Her 2007 swim across the nine mile span of Lake Tahoe became the subject of the documentary Crossing Tahoe: A Swimmer’s Dream. In 2009 she swam across Boston Harbor, a distance of five miles, to celebrate Down Syndrome Month in Massachusetts. She has also earned two gold medals from the Special Olympics, and completed 16 swims across San Francisco Bay, including the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. In 2010, she received the Global Down Syndrome Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award.

karen on sand after swim1-webKaren Gaffney after the Lake Tahoe Challenge

Karen Gaffney became the first living person with Down syndrome to receive an honorary doctorate degree when she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Portland on May 5th, 2013, for her work in raising awareness regarding the abilities of people who have Down syndrome.


Karen Gaffney graduated from St. Mary’s Academy high school in Portland in 1997, and in 2001 she graduated from Portland Community College with an Associate of Science degree and a teacher’s aide certificate.


2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    Wow! This gal is amazing! Most people who are considered “healthy” in all manners probably would not accomplish what she has done. An inspiration