Little person, big plans

Little person Ethan Burge sits with his mom, Wendy Burge. The 10-year-old Langley resident says he would like to be a filmmaker one day. But first, he wants to go to Disneyland.  - Dan Ferguson photo
Little person Ethan Burge sits with his mom, Wendy Burge. The 10-year-old Langley resident says he would like to be a filmmaker one day. But first, he wants to go to Disneyland.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

The day Ethan Burge reached 44 inches in height, the 10-year-old checked the mark on the wall of his Langley home, let out a whoop of joy and ran to inform his mother that he was now tall enough to go on the rides at Disneyland.

That was when Wendy Burge learned her youngest son possessed an iPod app that displays the ride types, anticipated wait times and height requirements at the famous theme park.

For Ethan, a little person who has dwarfism, overcoming the height limit was a big moment.

In the four months since then, the freckle-faced Grade 5 student has been waging a relentless charm offensive to convince his family to visit Disneyland during their upcoming summer vacation.

When his mother pointed out they were planning to visit relatives in Germany this year, Ethan smiled his warmest smile.

"You know Germany is next to Paris," he said.

"And you know what's in Paris."

He didn't have to say Euro Disney.

Ethan believes most obstacles can be overcome.

Case in point: when spinal complications from his dwarfism required him to spend more than three years in a back brace, Ethan discovered that he could still use playground slides by lying flat on his back and using his momentum at the bottom to land on his feet.

"It was tricky," he says.

The brace came off four years ago.

These days, Ethan likes to demonstrate his recovery and make jaws drop by breaking out flashy dance moves that showcase his speed and balance.

He demonstrates for a visitor by moving from a standing position to a handstand in one quick, smooth move.

"I'm not a sports kid, I'm a dance kid," he says.

His mother fondly describes him as a "Dennis-the-menace" type who has been known to break things like towel racks by using them as impromptu grab handles.

One of Ethan's favorite things is kicking back in a comfy chair and watching movies with dad Thomas on a big-screen television, with a soda in one hand and licorice in the other.

He's had to temporarily give up popcorn because he just got braces.

When Ethan watches a movie, he is often interested in behind-the-scenes information, like the name of the director and other production details.

"I just want to see how everything is made," he says.

One day, he thinks he'd like to work in the industry, making the kinds of films he likes to watch.

Dwarfism, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, refers to people who reach an adult height of  58 inches or less (147 centimeters). The average adult height of people with dwarfism is 48 inches (122 cm).

Most people with the medical condition prefer to be called little persons. The words "dwarf" and "midget" are considered insulting.

Ethan has a condition known as achondroplasia, in which a person's arms and legs are disproportionately short in relation to their torso.

People with achondroplasia are usually of normal intelligence and live normal life spans, but like Ethan, often have to cope with bone-related health problems.

According to statistics gathered by the Little People of America (LPA) nonprofit society, achondroplasia occurs in one out of every 26,000 to 40,000 births.

About 80 per cent of people with achondroplasia are born to parents of average height.

Asked what he would tell people about himself if he had the chance, Ethan doesn't hesitate.

"I am a normal kid who just happens to have dwarfism," he says.

Next month (March), Ethan and his mom plan to attend the opening of a fund-raising event for little people being coordinated by the White Rock chapter of the Valley Women's Network (VWN).

It's a benefit for the Little People of British Columbia Society for Short Stature Awareness, a non-profit organization for children and adults with growth disorders that provides social, emotional and educational support to members and their families.

The event, "Cowgirls Gone Wild" is scheduled for Saturday, March 3 at the Sunrise Banquet and Conference Centre at 5640 188 Street in Cloverdale.

While it sounds like fun, Ethan's mom says it's a little grown-up for her son, so they won't be staying for the whole show.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with a buffet service starting at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $40 and include dinner, door prizes and entertainment by Kerry-Lee Manuel, Jane Perrett, Joanne Chiasson and more.

You can purchase tickets by emailing

For more information about the Little People of B.C. Society, visit

Notable little people

The list of successful and notable little persons is a long one which includes: Kenny Baker, who operated the R2-D2 "droid" in the Star Wars films; Tamara Detro, one of the performers who operated the "E.T. alien in the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, Peter Dinklage, who portrays Tyrion Lannister in the "Game of Thrones" hit television series, Charla Baklayan Faddoul, a two-time competitor on the Amazing Race reality-TV show, Verne Troyer, who played Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies, famous sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, former WWE cruiserweight champion "Hornswoggle" and Australian senator Dr. Alan Eggleston.





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