How did it all start?

Getting started on a non-profit organization that is focused on the vast POTENTIAL of our family members born with Down syndrome was the brainchild of Dr. Jean Edwards, Professor Emeritus, from Portland State University.

We were fortunate to meet up with Jean early on in Karen’s preschool years. She was a tremendous advocate for early intervention and inclusion in a regular classroom setting as much as possible. Her theme was “readiness”. What do we need to do to get our children ready for inclusion at whatever phase of life is upon us.

Jean Edwards was a mentor to us as we navigated our way through her early education years. When Karen was attending high school at St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland, she was a few blocks from the Portland State University Campus. Jean regularly included Karen as a guest speaker when she was teaching students a curriculum dealing with the “Exceptional Learner”.

When Karen was a senior in high school, she had to complete a “senior project” that required teaming up with a member of the community. Jean and Karen collaborated on a project with the goal to bring positive information to families, friends and educators about the potential for children born with Down syndrome. Through the course of the project, they designed and developed the video, “Journey of a Lifetime, Beginning with the End in Mind”. In addition to the video, they teamed up to form the non-profit organization to continue the effort that started with Karen’s senior project.

Karen’s non profit, the Karen Gaffney Foundation is entirely funded by honorariums she receives for her speaking engagements, video sales, contributions from others and grants. Karen takes no payment personally for her work. Any money she receives goes into the foundation to help fund her work.  Learn more about Karen’s Story »

Board of Directors

Karen Gaffney
Self Advocate
Portland, Oregon
President of the Foundation

James B. Gaffney
Executive Director, Doerner Saunders
Portland, Oregon
Sec/Treasurer of the Board of Directors

Dr. Jean Edwards
Professor Emeritus, Special Education, Portland State University
Portland, Oregon
Co-Founding Member of the Board

Lynda O’Neill
Real Estate Specialist John L Scott
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Kyle Floberg
Corporate Risk Management and Insurance Specialist
New York, NY

Ashley James Stapleton
Public Relations – Metropolitan Group
Portland Oregon

Michael England
Data Architect – The Standard
Portland Oregon

Barbara Gaffney
Business Consultant
Portland, Oregon
Co-Founding Member of the Board
Key Contact for Karen Gaffney Foundation


All volunteer – no paid staff members