Karen Gaffney, International Down Syndrome Self Advocate (DSFN) and open water swimmer, is expected to be the special guest speaker at the second annual World Down Syndrome Day Conference scheduled for March 21 to 22 at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, and at Magdalena Grand Resort and Spa, Tobago.
DSFN is also honoured to have as its keynote speaker Julie Harmon, a board member of the National Down Syndrome Congress (USA). She is also the mother of two boys with Down syndrome. In keeping with the 2013 World Down Syndrome Day theme "Right to Work," foremost emphasis will also be placed on inclusion.
A media release stated: "The DSFN marks the eighth anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day (DSFN), recognised by the international Down Syndrome community and the second anniversary since sanctioned by United Nations.
"The conference is open to people of all abilities, their families, caregivers, educators and other professionals. The date is significant, as it represents the three copies of chromosome 21 which is unique to persons with Down syndrome."
Karen Gaffney is an American who is the president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Portland, Oregon, which "is dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities." She herself has Down Syndrome, and in 2001 she completed a relay swim of the English Channel, the first person with Down Syndrome ever to do so.
In 2007 she became the first person with Down Syndrome to swim across Lake Tahoe. In 2009 she swam across Boston Harbor, 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.