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Chris Burke
Born Christopher Joseph Burke
August 26, 1965 (1965-08-26) (age 44)
Point Lookout, New York, U.S.
Other name(s) Chris Burke
Years active 1989—present

Christopher Joseph "Chris" Burke (born August 26, 1965, in Point Lookout, New York) is an American actor with Down syndrome, best known for his character Charles "Corky" Thatcher on the television series Life Goes On.

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Early years

Burke is the youngest of four children of Marian Burke, a retired trade-show manager, and Frank Burke, a retired NYPD inspector. Burke has Down Syndrome, and his parents were told to institutionalize him when he was born, but they decided to raise him at home and nurture his talents. He was encouraged to follow his career objectives no matter how untraditional they seemed for a young man with Downers. His siblings also worked with him. Many were surprised at how bright Burke was when he entered formal schooling.

In the early 1980s public schools were not mainstreaming students with disabilities into the general population and there were no good private education programs for students with disabilities in the area, so Burke was eventually sent to board at the Don Guanella School [1] in Springfield, Pennsylvania and he graduated in 1985. After graduation he worked as an elevator operator and did volunteer work.

Performing

Burke first set his sights on becoming a tap dancer. He later switched to acting while at the Don Guanella School. He was further inspired by attending night classes, going through auditions, writing scripts, and reading books.

Burke got his first acting job in the ABC TV movie Desperate. Network executives at ABC were impressed by his performance and created Life Goes On with Burke's character as the main role. Life Goes On propelled Burke into fame and wide recognition. Burke made several guest appearances in Touched by an Angel as Taylor, an angel who has Down syndrome. In one, the angel tells an invalid woman that God orders him to appear to those who are invalids, handicapped or have Down Syndrome to realize that there is hope for them and God knows their afflictions.

Down syndrome work

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Speaking

Burke delivers inspirational speeches. He is the goodwill ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society. He is also a spokesperson for National Down Syndrome Congress.

Other

Currently, Burke tours the U.S. with his 4-piece folk band. He sings with his twin friends, Joe and John DeMasi. The DeMasi brothers were music counselors at the Town of Hempstead's ANCHOR program for children with disabilities. The band has released several albums, and has even appeared on television performing their signature song, "Celebrate." [1]

References

External links


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