English Channel awaits Wilson swimmer
By Laurel Williams, Woodrow Wilson High School Statesman
Sophomore Kelsey Bowen, an accomplished member of Wilson's varsity swim team, will take on a difficult challenge this summer. Bowen, along with her dad and aunt, will be part of the twelve person "Team Gaffney " relay team that will brave rough waters and cold temperatures to swim across the English Channel. The swim is a fundraiser that was organized by 22-year-old Karen Gaffney, a graduate of St. Mary's Academy and currently a student at Portland Community College. Her goal is to raise money for an awareness video about Down's Syndrome.
Gaffney was born with Down's Syndrome and has spent her whole life meeting the challenges of everyday life. She was raised in a family that nurtured her fight against a life of dependence. Gaffney not only fought dependence, she conquered it. Currently, she is the president of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises awareness for students, counselors, educators, and those in the medical profession of the capabilities of children with Down's Syndrome. Gaffney is very active-she has been swimming her whole life, even before she learned to walk. Swimming helps her joints and keeps her in shape. In high school, Gaffney was a member of her varsity swim team and earned her letter by attending all the meets. She now swims two to three miles each morning at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
Team Gaffney is comprised of twelve professionals, plus moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends from the community. The team will be divided into two teams of six that will attempt to swim the 24- 30 miles (depending on the tide) of open water between France and England. One person from each team will swim at a time, for one hour, and then the next person will take their turn while the others rest. There will be a motor boat that will go alongside the swimmers in case of emergencies. "I'm really excited about the swim, it'll be a cool accomplishment at such a young age," commented Bowen.
In addition to the twelve team members, there are ten honorary team members who were asked to be a part of this amazing event. Included in the mix of US Olympic Swim members from years past are two more familiar faces. One is Maurice Lucas, an ex-Portland Trail Blazer from the 1977 Championship Team, and the other is Wilson High School's very own English teacher Carolyn Wood. Wood won a gold medal in the four by 100 meter relay at the 1960 Olympic Games.
The twelve members of Team Gaffney train together at the Multnomah Athletic Club several times a month. In August, the team swam three miles down the Columbia River to Hayden Island to get a feel for open water swimming and cold temperatures. They also participated in the Polar Bear Swim at the Bend Athletic Club on New Years Eve. The team swam for twenty minutes in the freezing cold pool. Both events were shown on the local news, and the team appreciated the publicity. As part of the event, each team member is assigned to raise a specific amount of money through pledges and donations. The money will go toward producing a video for parents of children with Down Syndrome.
Send donations to: Team Gaffney, 815 NW 13th Avenue, Portland, OR 97209.
© The Karen Gaffney Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
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