High-flying actor's dream takes off

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 12:58 04/07/2014
 Natalee Bartlett
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

TAKE OFF: Luke Burke was farewelled at Nelson Airport by supporters and family, from right, Patsy Burke, Ramari Joseph, Tapita Ching, and Paul Nelson, for his trip to London.

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Luke Burke is off to London after a mammoth fundraising effort saw him raise $7800 and shed more than 5kg in three weeks.

Speaking at Nelson Airport before his flight to Auckland yesterday, would-be actor Burke said it was "surreal" that his long-held dream of getting to London was coming true.

"It's hard to describe. It has always been something that is in the future . . . it's time, that's the craziest thing."

He was extremely grateful for all those who had stepped up to support him.

Luke will represent Nelson at the Globe Theatre through the Young Shakespeare Company.

He joins 23 others on the three-week acting course that he hopes will launch a career on the stage.

Burke's goal of heading to London was looking very shaky three weeks ago, when he still had thousands of dollars to raise after earlier fundraising efforts failed to fire.

Burke and his mentors decided to take radical action and put his body on the line and asked for people to sponsor Burke to lose weight.

Once his story was revealed in the Nelson Mail last month, donations started flooding in and he raised $1800 in one day on his Give a Little page, Burke said.

He has kept his end of the bargain, working out at City Fitness which trained him for three days a week for free. "That was really good."

On three further mornings a week he and mentor Paul Nelson have risen early and walked in the Richmond hills from 6am to 7am. To up the ante Burke carried 10kg in weights.

Burke also plays in the Victory Phoenix Vikings Rugby League team.

"It's been full on. But I'm feeling a lot better."

Burke said he hoped to continue with the improvements to his diet and exercise programme when he returned. The ASB Aquatic Centre had given him a six-month free pass with a personal trainer.

He wanted to thank his granddad Graham Wilson, his nana Valerie Burke and Dawn Saunders the chief executive of Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ, who found him $1600 in funding.

"She could have said ‘no you haven't got any money together, that's it'."

Mum Patsy Burke said she was proud of Burke and it had been hard when fundraising had not gone as planned, however her faith and trust in God meant she believed they would get there.

Nelson said the fresh direction in fundraising had worked for Burke, after appearing touch and go.

"He's really responded to the whole diet and training exercises . . . it hasn't been easy, vege soups, no sugar, no fizzies. He's had lots of advice around nutrition and exercise."

Burke hopes to get a chance to see if he can attend a Graham Norton show screening while in England and tell a story in the red chair.

But he was most excited about experiencing The Globe. "As an actor who likes Shakespeare so much it's quite a privilege really to be able to go to the Globe, let alone perform there."

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