Becky Werner Meningitis Foundation

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by Jennifer Tomazic

MUKWONAGO -- The Werners are just putting the finishing touches on Becky's garden, hoping that the same amount of butterflies return this year, as in in years past.

"We always talk to butterflies," said Becky's dad, Bob, because butterflies are an extension of his daughter.

The 20-year-old died in less than 39 hours of showing symptoms of meningitis in 2004. Everyone thought she had the flu until Becky went to the hospital and doctors diagnosed her with meningitis, but by that time it was too late for them to do anything that would help the spread of the infection.

There is a shot for meningitis but Becky didn't have it. The Werners admit they just didn't know much about the disease and what was out there to prevent it. But they don't want other parents to go through what they did, so shortly after Becky died they started the Becky Werner Meningitis Foundation.

"I thought Becky is probably up there saying, 'Mom, you have to do something about this,'" said Dee Dee Werner.

The foundation does two things: spreads awareness about the disease and provides funding for those affected by it.

"Somehow we have to try to give them a better life: be active in something and that will make them feel good about themselves," said Dee Dee.

The Werners have a host of fundraisers to help support other families. For World Meningitis Day, they held a walk at Concordia University in Mequon. The next fundraiser is the Shots for Meningitis Golf Outing on June 15. For information, log onto www.stampoutmeningitis.com.

Dee Dee and Bob go around to schools and let kids know that meningitis is spread through saliva so they shouldn't share water bottles on the field.

Because kids are in constant contact with each other, the CDC recommends the meningitis shot for children as young as 11.

Bob says parents oftentimes come up to him after he gives a talk and say they will put the meningitis shot on the fall shot schedule.

"Unless you can guarantee that they're not going to share anything with anybody until they get the shot, then I guess I wouldn't worry about it. But why wait. Do it now," said Bob.

The Werners have gotten a lot of support from the community in their fight against meningitis, hundreds came out to build Becky's garden in just one day, and they say they couldn't keep Becky's spirit alive without them.

"I always said Becky was the hero-she gave her life for this, we're just the messengers," said Bob.

"I don't ever want anyone to forget her, I think that's a mom's fear," said Dee Dee. "But to think that Becky's got her hand all over that, it's pretty awesome."

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