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Chris Burke        

Actor & Down Syndrome Activist

Chris Burke has become best known for his character Charles "Corky" Thatcher on the television series Life Goes On. 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 nontraditional they seemed for a young man with Down Syndrome.

Burke has been the Goodwill Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society since 1994. He has starred in the organization's acclaimed public service announcements; with Tracey Ullman in 1999 and, more recently, for the My Great Story public awareness campaign with Actor John C. McGinley and TV Hosts Meredith Vieira and Nancy O'Dell.

As Goodwill Ambassador, he travels the country attending Buddy Walks, making public appearances, speaking with the press and greeting fans. When he is not on the road, Burke is a valued member of the National Down Syndrome Society's staff, working in their New York City office.

Burke has delivered inspirational speeches around the world and continues to speak at schools, seminars, conferences and non-profit organizations. He also tours the U.S. with his four-piece folk band, Forever Friends, for which he is the singer. Burke met his bandmates, twin brothers Joe and John DeMasi, when they were music counselors at the town of Hempstead, New York's ANCHOR program for individuals with disabilities, when Burke was a teenager. The band has released several albums and has appeared on television performing their signature song, "Celebrate."

In 1991, Burke co-wrote his autobiography, A Special Kind of Hero, with Jo Beth McDaniel. From 1994 to 2005 he was the editor-in-chief of News 'n Views and UpBeat, publications written by and for people with Down syndrome, and in 2009 he contributed to the National Down Syndrome Society's My Great Story campaign by writing his story, Great Expectations.

In 1987, he began his acting career in the TV movie Desperate. He then appeared on Life Goes On, Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted, North and South, Book III: Heaven & Hell, Commish, The Promised Land, Touched by an Angel, The Division, and ER.

He has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for TV and a Golden Apple Awards. He won a Ten Outstanding Young Americans award and was a National Rehabilitation Hospital Honoree.

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