I would like to add to Mardra Sikora’s brilliant Open Letter of Gratitude and Well Wishes to Actor Chris Burke regarding your birthday. From my heart, I wish to add the following…
“We had been married for six years, during which headlines included such historical events as the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, the release of Nelson Mandela after twenty-seven years in captivity, and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops, setting off the Persian Gulf War.
Life Goes On was on primetime television, starring Chris Burke as Charles Thatcher, a teenager with Down syndrome. And somewhere in Texas was a Desert Storm baby in a foster home. He was soon to be ours. We would name him “Charles” in honor of “Corky,” Chris Burke’s character.”
And so it was. Twenty-five years ago a two month old baby became the center of our world.
And in the midst of it all, there you were. Charley was too little to watch you, but we sure did. He had no idea that there was a teenager named Chris Burke, who was changing the perception of people with Down syndrome.
Week after week we tuned in to see what “Corky” would do next. We laughed, and sometimes we cried. We watched as your television family paved the way for acceptance, showing us what family is all about.
I remember thinking what a brave person you were, memorizing all those lines, and what an achievement that was. We have no way of knowing how many times you had to redo the screen takes, but we assumed you had to redo your share, just like the other cast members, in their attempts to get it right. At times it seemed as if it was difficult for you to get the words out. And yet, you never gave up. Perseverance.
For parents of children with Down syndrome, you did more than just step in front of a camera each week. You gave us hope. Made us see the possibilities. Encouraged us to dream.
Chris, there is a reason we named Charley after you. We wanted to thank you for all you have done for people like our Charley, living with Down syndrome. For being the pioneer for others who now enjoy a countless successes because of you. For letting the world know that an extra chromosome only adds to who you are, and that quality of life is a choice. For opening the door for those who might not have had a chance, and educating the world that Down syndrome is not something to pity, but to celebrate.
Because of you, Chris, the “Corky’s” of this world enjoy a freedom of self and all the joy that comes with being happy with who you are.
On August 26th, you will celebrate your 50th birthday. We want you to know, Chris, that you have a world full of friends who will be celebrating with you.
Celebrating the 50 years you have spent opening the world to our kids. And Chris, we want you to know that when we look at our Charley, we see a bit of you.
Thank you Chris, and happy birthday!
With great regard and love,
Chris, meet Charley, your namesake!
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Sherry Palmer is the author of: Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption
Follow Charley Palmer on Facebook at: Life With Charley - And Down Syndrome
and also Charley’s blog at: Life With Charley