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A guest appearance by a young, successful Hollywood star will highlight September's 1998 Buddy Walk of Niagara to benefit the National Down Syndrome Society.

Chris Burke, the young actor with Down syndrome who starred as "Corky" on the ABC-TV hit series "Life Goes On," will lead an expected 100 or so walkers Sept. 12 during the Kiwanis Peach Festival Parade in Lewiston.

Following the annual parade, Burke and his musical band, "CJJ Enterprises Inc.," will be performing in concert at the festival.

"I think the message that Chris has by talking about 'abilities' and not 'disabilities' is going to make a very nice statement to the community," says Christine Sirianni, the program director for the walk and a parent of a child with Down syndrome.

This walk will be the second of its kind as part of the Lewiston parade. Last year, there were about 120 walkers.

"We're doing this for three main reasons. We want to educate the community -- educators, parents and professionals -- about Down syndrome, generate research at the local level and for advocacy," Sirianni says.

The Buddy Walk of Niagara is being coordinated with the National Down Syndrome Society and more than 75 other walks across the country.

Nationally, the Buddy Walk is in its fourth year.

It was developed in 1995 to promote awareness and advocacy for people afflicted with the birth defect. Many of the other walks are held in October -- National Down Syndrome Awareness month, Sirianni says.

"With the Peach Festival Parade . . . we have 2,500 spectators seeing our message. That's why we have it in September," Sirianni says.

"I think it is having a terrific impact on family members and children with Down syndrome themselves and also on the community."

Sirianni says anyone interested in participating in this year's walk should register early as space in the parade is limited. Interested walkers should call 754-9397.

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