IRON RIVER, Mich. (WJMN) – If you’ve been to the U.P. Championship Rodeo, chances are, you’ve probably ran in to Ashley Burke. 

“Oh describe Ashley, oh geez!” said Ashley’s friend, Cory Saigh.

“Very energetic, she would do anything for you,” said Brad Burke, her cousin.

“Very kind, she would give you the shirt off her back,” said Bernadette Coates, Co-Chair of the U.P. Championship Rodeo.

“She is here for our community, she volunteers in every aspect.” said another one of her friends, Kelli Butler.

“A go-getter,” explained Steven Fabbri, Ashley’s friend. “She’ll do anything for anybody.”

At the age of 16, she started volunteering with the rodeo. Now 21 years later, as the co-chair of the rodeo, her passion for the event hasn’t faded in the slightest. She works hard year round to make sure the rodeo is a blast for all who attend.

“I would say without any doubt in my mind that it is a true passion,” explain Ashley Burke. “A passion of mine that we’ve been able to build something back up to where it once was years and years and years ago. I take a peak in the grandstands and I’m like ‘This is why I do this, because all these people, they forget about life, what’s going on, their woes, their can’t, their cans, their worries, and they just focus right here on this family event for 2, 2 and a half hours. And if that’s something I can do to help them forget about their problems, bring a little excitement and joy into their life and provide some entertainment, we’re just going to keep on keepin’ on.”

Ashley Burke stays involved in her community outside of the rodeo by volunteering with the West Iron County Fire Department and Iron County Search and Rescue, and through her job with Iron County Central Dispatch.

This year, just months before the U.P. Championship Rodeo took place, Burke was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a staple in the community, there was no hesitation for the people in and around Iron River to rally together and support her.

Her friend Kelli Butler organized a go fund me page to raise enough money for Ashley to take off of work until she recovered enough to go back.

Her cousin, Brad Burke, organized the firefighters where she volunteers to shave their heads in support of Ashley.

Ashley’s friends and family will continue to support her throughout her journey. We asked some of them what they would like to say to her.

“I love Ashley,” said Butler. “She’s one of my best friends. I’d like to thank her for the friendship, the memories, you know. And I know we’re going to make more and do more things, we’re just kind of on a pause right now for the trouble we can get in. But, she’s got this.”

“Hang in there,” said a friend, Lisa Woods. “We’re all here for you, and specifically we’re here  individually as well. I can’t wait until you’re better. I can’t wait until this mess is over.”

“Love you kid,” said Coates.

“Stay strong, it’s a battle, but you’ve got your family and all your friends and this community backing you up,” said Brad Burke. “You can do it Ash.”

“I want you to kick it in the butt and I want you to get healthy and come back to work,” joked Kaycee Smith, Ashley’s friend and coworker.

“Ashley, I’m here for you,” said Saigh. “I love you, I’m here for you day and night, doesn’t matter the time of day or night, you call me, I’m here, and I’ll be there. I’m here with you 100%. You’re in my thought every day and always, and you will beat this and I’m here for you for the ride.”

Ashley wants to thank her friends, family, and her community for their support.

“I can’t thank the community and everybody who’s said things about me today enough,” said Ashley Burke. “I mean to say it comes from the bottom of my heart is not enough. I mean it’s a whole soul thank you for all the support and the kind words and the encouragement to keep on keepin’ on and keep fighting this fight, and they’ve truly gone to show that nobody fights alone. And, we got this, we’ll get it done together. And I’d like them all to know that it’s likewise. If the shoe was on the other foot, clearly I’m here and I know people go with their own struggles day to day as well and I’m still continuing to be there and want to be there for people and just because I’m going through my own battles right now doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t mean that I don’t have time to set aside to be there for the people that I truly care about. Your problems aren’t any different than my problems or any less than, or I have bigger problems, we all are in this together and we’ll keep on fighting.”

SM”ASH” That Cancer, a benefit to support Ashley Burke, will be taking place on Saturday, July 22nd from 2 pm until 6 pm at the Horseshoe Bar in Amasa. Some events happening during the benefit include a raffle, live music, a bake sale, and a spaghetti dinner served by the West Iron County Fire Department. It will be $10 per person and $5 for kids 12 years old and under. For more information, you can contact Em Gagneo at 906-284-2380, Zach Gagnea at 906-284-7453, or Lisa Thone at 906-241-3569.