Governor and First Lady celebrate annual tree lighting; dedicate ceremony to those affected by disease of addiction

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 7:30pm

Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum joined community members and state officials, including the Office of Management and Budget as the event co-sponsor, for the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Bismarck. The North Dakota State Holiday Tree, which stands 26 feet high in Memorial Hall, was adorned with 343 hand-crafted and donated ornaments from individuals and organizations across the state, representing the creativity, generosity, and hopeful spirit of citizens of North Dakota.

The governor and first lady dedicated the lighting ceremony to those struggling with the disease of addiction. 

“Tonight, we recognize all those who have been affected by the disease of addiction, and dedicate this ceremony to them by sharing songs and messages of love, community and hope,” said Helgaas Burgum.  “It is important to remember that treatment can work and recovery is possible.”

Two families invited to participate in the ceremony were also recognized. The Morse family lost their son, Tyson, to a fentanyl overdose in March 2016 at age 24. The Morse family shares their story to create awareness of the devastation caused by the disease of addiction and to support other families who have also experienced a loss.

The Strokland family, including parents Paul and Pam, daughter Katie, and Katie’s children Jaden, Branson, Mason and Carver, have faced many challenges due to Katie’s struggle with addiction, which started with opioids and progressed to a heroin addiction. She has struggled for years to find recovery, and her parents Paul and Pam are helping care for Katie’s four children. Paul, who is currently working with the Minot Mayor’s Committee to help eliminate the stigma of addiction, is also in the process of starting a recovery community organization in Minot.

“Tonight, each of the more than thousand lights on the State Holiday Tree represents a loved one who has been lost to addiction, someone struggling with addiction, or all those currently on the path to recovery,” said Burgum. “Kathryn and I are grateful to both courageous families for sharing their stories, and for inspiring others to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction.”

Burgum and Helgaas Burgum were joined at the event by Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, statewide elected officials, members of the Legislature, and State of ND team members.  Other program participants included District 35 representative Karen Karls and Blackfeet Nation elder Barney Botone.  Music was provided by the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet, Legacy High School Jazz Choir, vocalist Kim Shaw and pianist Joel Gilbertson.

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