McKenzie Carter Hartwig was born and raised in Pinedale, Wyoming. She spent her childhood doing anything active and outside - camping, boating, skiing, hiking, and horseback riding. As she grew into a teenager, she excelled in school sports - volleyball, basketball, and track. She also enjoyed barrel racing and pole-bending in the local rodeos.
McKenzie attended Pinedale High School and graduated in 2001. McKenzie was a beautiful, vivacious 18-year old, who was named Wyoming All State in Volleyball, Basketball and Track in 2001. She played the flute and piccolo, could speak two languages, loved to travel, and was an honor student. She earned a volleyball scholarship at the University of South Dakota and had a plan to pursue an international business degree that she hoped would eventually take her abroad to live.
McKenzie left home for South Dakota, looking forward to all the challenges that college would bring. Just 18 years old, she anticipated an exciting life ahead of her; attending parties and making new friends, playing on the USD volleyball team, and gaining new knowledge for a successful career.
"That day, when we hugged and kissed her good-bye, I never, ever thought it would be the last time we would see her alive," says McKenzie's mom, Laurie Hartwig. "There are always those nagging little thoughts in the back of every parent's mind: 'Wear your seatbelt. Don't drink and drive. Be careful of drugs.' We had always talked about those kinds of dangers to both of our kids." But one danger the Hartwigs never even considered was meningococcal meningitis. In August, 2001, while attending a volleyball tournament in North Dakota with her college teammates, she suddenly became ill and died that same evening.
"We are devastated and heartbroken, particularly since we have found out that this tragedy could have been prevented," Laurie Hartwig explains. "We don't want any parent to go through the suffering and anguish that we are experiencing."
McKenzie died of a vaccine-preventable disease!
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