THE North-East star of an advertisement promoting football for people with learning disabilities sets off on a trip to America tomorrow.

Barry Cairns, 35, of Carrville, Durham City, who has Downs Syndrome, will fly to Washington to meet President Bill Clinton.

The White House is hosting a gala on Wednesday for the Special Olympics, the world's largest programme of year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with learning disabilities.

Barry has been invited to present a preview of the television advertisement promoting football at the Special Olympics.

The Newcastle United fan, who had no professional acting experience, landed the part after auditioning with 20 others.

His name was put forward by staff at County Durham Care's Durham Centre, which he attends.

The advertisement will be broadcast in Europe and Eurasia next spring.

Barry said: "I'm really excited about going to America. When I went along to the audition for the advert I never dreamed that it would lead to an opportunity like this.''

He and his parents will stay at the hotel that many of the other gala guests will be using.

A County Durham Care spokeswoman said: "Last year's gala was televised and drew nearly four million viewers in the United States alone. It was presented by actress and comedienne Whoopi Goldberg, and featured artists including Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton and Sheryl Crow.

"The line-up for Wednesday's event is still under wraps, but no matter who is there, it is bound to be a night that Barry will remember for the rest of his life."