Ascension Borgess-Lee Foundation hosts annual Tree of Love ceremony

Published 12:07 pm Friday, December 2, 2022

DOWAGIAC — Wednesday was a day to remember for Jessica Burger.

The Dowagiac resident, who had just finished her last round of chemotherapy, was the honorary tree lighter for the Ascension Borgess-Lee Foundation’s annual Borgess Tree of Love Lighting Ceremony at Farr Park in Dowagiac.

“I was absolutely honored to participate in this, especially with it being my last chemo,” she said.

The tree, wrapped with more than 1,500 pink lights, illuminated the night sky as members of the foundation, hospital staff and the community joined together in celebration. The tree was blessed by Brendan Keenan, an Ascension Borgess-Lee chaplain, and with the push of a button, Burger made the pink lights appear. 

Burger was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 36 with no family history. “The only way I caught it was I felt it,” she said. “To get it verified, you have to go through things that people can’t afford to go through, so this is enormous to me to be able to participate in this and hopefully make contributions once I’m done.”

Dowagiac native and cancer survivor Jessica Voldrich was this year’s featured speaker. She credited her faith, family and community for helping her overcome the disease.

“My story is now holding the tension, the tension of recognizing there is pain in this world, and it can’t be avoided or planned for, but knowing I do not need to be afraid because God is with me and I can trust him,” she said.

So far, the foundation has raised $15,000 toward its $25,000 goal for the Tree of Love Campaign. The campaign provides free mammography services for uninsured or low-income women and men living in Cass County. 

According to Ascension, one in eight women will develop breast cancer and one in five can’t afford a mammogram.

To date, Ascension Borgess-Lee has provided close to 300 free screening services.

The foundation will continue to raise funds until the end of the year.