The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
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My Great Story
Chris Burke and I at the NDSS PSA Shoot
Chris Burke and I at the NDSS PSA Shoot
My Great Story

Two years ago, when my son, Gabriel was 15, he applied to be a counselor at Camp Pals in order to meet his school's community service requirement. Camp Pals is a one-week, sleep-away camp in Pennsylvania for teenagers with Down syndrome. In the days leading up to Gabe's departure, he was definitely anxious, as he didn't know what to expect. Each counselor is assigned to one camper. Gabe's pal was Christopher. A few days after Gabe arrived, he called home sounding very tired. He explained that as a pal, he was responsible for Christopher's well-being 24-7. I asked him if he thought it was just too much for him and without missing a beat he said, No, I love it. When I went to pick him up at the end of week, Gabe was silent as he piled his bags into the trunk of the car, almost as if he was trying to process his experience. And then he turned to me and said, "You know, when I first got here, it was so easy to tell the difference between 'them' and 'us.' But by the end, I couldn't distinguish between the campers and the counselors. We were all the same." What had started out as a school requirement, ended up as a life-changing experience for Gabe. This summer he celebrates his third year as a Camp Pals counselor. And his enthusiasm has led me to get involved with NDSS and its PSA efforts, including the most recent ads for the Buddy Walks'. Through the PSA 's I've had the chance to work with Chris Burke. I have admired him as an actor since he starred in the series "Life Goes On." But his greatest performance is delivered on a day to day basis... as a man of great warmth, humor and dignity. He never misses a chance to tell me when I flub a line, followed by that huge grin and a bear hug. Every time I see Chris, I walk away with a smile in my heart. What more can you say about another human being? Except, occasionally, I wish he would flub his lines, too!




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Dorothy J. Kollmann, United States, MI
7/4/2013 1:39:18 PM
I am so glad that Meridith's son and she, got to love Chris and other people with down syndrome. Welcome to my World!

Kathy A. Zigmond, United States, TX
2/22/2012 8:48:23 PM
well that was a really interesting story. so what does your son do now that he is a counselor?

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