Tree in DUC supports breast cancer awareness

A tree has sat in the lobby of Downing University Center this week. Inspired by Breast Cancer Awareness month (October), people have left pink leaves on the tree to raise awareness for the disease and remembers those lost to it.

Stephani Stacy

A small tree lit up by strings of Christmas lights and decorated with pink leaves will stand in Downing University Center through Friday.

Some leaves hold a single name, while others are written with the word “survivor” — some with a simple heart.

The tree is the idea of Christina Hickey, a Health Services intern who worked with other WKU students and almost a dozen organizations to raise awareness about breast cancer at WKU. Each leaf represented someone whose life has been changed by breast cancer. As of Tuesday, there were more than 160 leaves on the tree.

“The actual goal is to remember people who have survived, died from or are currently battling breast cancer,” Hickey said.

The Louisville senior was one of dozens of people who worked to bring about Sunday’s breast cancer memorial ceremony. The event, called H.E.R. (Helping Each to Remember), started with an educational slideshow about the nature, symptoms, risk factors, stages and treatment of breast cancer.

Pink leaves were distributed throughout the audience so the attendees could write the names of family and friends affected by breast cancer. The leaves would later be put on the tree in DUC.

After the presentation, a survivor of breast cancer shared her story with the audience and Lauren Cunningham performed a song.

Alpha Kappa Alpha president Nikkei Adeniran said the event was inspired by October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Our goal is to inform people about breast cancer, educate them, and bring awareness to the fact that many people are battling breast cancer,” said Adeniran, a senior from Dayton, Ohio.

The ceremony and tree were the result of a collaboration between multiple organizations both on and off campus, which included WKU Health Services, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Tau Delta, the Interfraternity Council and Pan Hellenic Councils, DUC, the National Pan-Hellenic Council Topperwell, Aramark, Housing and Residence Life and the local American Cancer Society.

“We wanted to get as many organizations on campus involved as we could,” Adeniran said.

Becoming involved with breast cancer led Alpha Kappa Alpha member Brittany Brown to find out she has two relatives who survived breast cancer.

The Louisville senior said the ceremony was successful in teaching the WKU community about the disease.

“I think it was an eye-opener,” Brown said. “Breast cancer is a common and prevalent disease that isn’t really talked about.”

The Sunday event culminated in a donation of $1,400 to the American Cancer Society, which will be used for advocacy, research, awareness and early detections of breast cancer.

Brown said the purpose of putting the tree in DUC was to bring breast cancer awareness to as many people as possible.

“DUC is the most popular place on campus,” Brown said. “This tree is a constant reminder to people about breast cancer.”

Hickey said the goal of the ceremony and memorial tree was not only to raise awareness at WKU, but to reach out to those who are battling breast cancer themselves.

“The goal is to help those battling breast cancer know that they’re not alone,” Hickey said.