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Success Stories in the IDD Community: Chris Burke

Chris Burke is a 55 year old actor that was born with Down Syndrome. He is most known for his role as Charles Thatcher on the television show titled Life Goes On. From a young age, He enjoyed watching television and movies and wanted to be a part of them. His parents were very supportive of him and his goals and encouraged him to achieve anything he wanted to. When he was born, people had very limited knowledge of Down Syndrome. Professionals told his parents that they should have him institutionalized. His parents decided to ignore professional advice and raise him instead, giving him access to many resources to succeed. 

Early Life

When Burke was a child, people with disabilities were not yet welcomed in public school. Burke attended Kennedy Child Study Center in New York City from age five to almost age eight. After that, he attended  Cardinal Cushing School and Training Center in Hanover, Massachusetts and also lived there. He then transferred to the Don Guanella School located in Springfield, Pennsylvania to be closer to family members. Burke graduated in 1986. He then worked as an elevator operator in New York City and also volunteered for their public schools. 

Acting

In terms of acting, his first job was in a performance of The Emperor’s New Clothes at the Cardinal Cushing School. He then began auditioning for different roles and attending night classes for acting as well as reading many books about his favorite actors. 

He booked his first professional acting gig in 1987 and played the movie Desperate on ABC TV. After he performed in that movie, producers created a show to showcase him because they enjoyed his performance so much. The show was called Life Goes On and Burke played Charles Thatcher, also known as Corky. 

Advocacy

Since 1994, Burke has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society. He conversated with the press and also his fans as well as conducting speeches. He has also co-written his autobiography and was an editor-in-chief for News ‘n Views. 

Sources:

Chris Burke Website

IMBD

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