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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Being Best Buddies In The Water And On Land

Mike McCormick, State Director of Best Buddies Hawaii, and his staff and volunteers work daily to create opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"Our programs are flourishing and continuing to grow in our fourth year in Hawaii. This year we expanded by starting a new high school chapter in Lahaina on Maui. We also began our first high school and middle school programs on Oahu in Kapolei.

They are already showing great promise while our already established middle school and other four high school programs on Maui continue to attract many new members.

We want to congratulate the runner-up in the World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year award, Karen Gaffney. Karen is a winner in and out of the water. She's an inspiration to many students, swimmers, and open water enthusiasts here on Maui
."

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 (shown in the background above), circumnavigated Molokini volcanic crater island (shown in the foreground above), and then paddled 6 miles back. Gaffney was accompanied by Hawaiian channel swimmer and Maui resident Mike Spalding.

Gaffney started the Karen Gaffney Foundation, an organization that encourages inclusion for those with Down syndrome, while she was still in high school. What started back then as a senior project has evolved into a full-time passion. Today she traverses the country, giving around 30 presentations each year. She also presents workshops on the importance of physical fitness and started "The Friends First Network" in Portland schools to promote diversity awareness with a simple message. "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."

Just as Gaffney is making a positive difference in the world every day through her actions and swims, so are the Best Buddies in Hawaii.

Lower photo courtesy of Jim Gaffney.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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