Andrea with all of her wisdom quietly asked me to sit down with her and watch video's of people with Down syndrome. I remember them all. A cute two-year old little boy who not only signed over 200 words, but actually read the words from flashcards. An adorable little girl who survived open heart surgery (like our own Delaney would). And two amazing women who really were game changers for me: Dr. Karen Gaffney and actress Jamie Brewer.
Both women have Down syndrome and both burst open the doors, changing perceptions of what having Down syndrome means today. These two eloquent, intellectual and overachieving ladies made a monumental impact on me that day, the day I decided we would save Delaney and it's not hard to see why!
Dr. Karen Gaffney is a motivational speaker and the president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization "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. Dr. Karen Gaffney became the first living person with Down syndrome to receive an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Portland May 5th, 2013, for her work in raising awareness regarding the abilities of people who have Down syndrome. She also 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.
Thank you Karen and Jamie for being you! You both had a hand in saving Delaney. Delaney can't wait to someday met you!