By Drew Mackie
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying this, but I feel like Corky from "Life Goes On" was the first person with Down syndrome that I ever met. Of course, I didn't actually ever meet him, but I sure felt like I did after having watched him cope every week with both hardships related to his disability as well as the typical highs and lows of growing up. You know -- life, going on. In the end, any regular viewer who might not have understood Down syndrome would eventually come to care about Corky as much they would have, say, his brainy sister Becca (Kellie Martin).
In the time since "Life Goes On" ended, Chris Burke, who played Corky, continued to act, appearing in such projects as "Touched by an Angel," "ER" and in the film "Mona Lisa Smile." Burke also gives motivational speeches and acts as a spokesperson for both the National Down Syndrome Society and the National Down Syndrome Congress. But that's not enough for the 45-year-old: He's now attempting a return to TV, so a whole new generation of kids might know his face and get a chance to see how much a person with Down syndrome can actually do.
Burke, along with musician friends Joe and John DeMasi, are pitching a new show titled "Forever Friends." Intended for viewers aged 3 to 7 years old, "Forever Friends" would boast a cast and crew that includes people with and without disabilities. All manner of children would appear on the show to showcase their talents without focusing on any limitations they might have. And the show, if produced, would air online and on public access. (See the trailer here.)
For now, however, that "if" looms large, but to help make "Forever Friends" happen, Burke and company have turned to the Pepsi Refresh Project, a sort of online forum where people can propose ideas that could potentially benefit their community or society at large. Each month, forum users can vote for which ideas they think most deserve a financial contribution, and on October 31, the ten-most deserving causes each receives $50,000. (At the time of this story's posting, the "Forever Friends" idea was ranked 203rd.) Burke encourages fans -- and anyone else who feels the show could make a positive difference in kids' lives -- to check out his proposal.
So Corky is still around, in a sense, and perhaps best of all, the actor who gave Corky a voice is trying to stay in the public eye for all the right reasons. It remains to be seen if "Forever Friends" will be the project that takes Chris Burke back into the spotlight. But I at least would hope that children who don't already know a disabled person in their life can one day find one like our friend Corky, who proved time and time again that someone with Down syndrome should be defined by what they can do and not by what they can't.
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