FOX VALLEY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Calumet County, Fond du Lac County, Outagamie County, Winnebago County

Fond du Lac County girl with Juvenile Arthritis overcomes obstacles to meet goal

From the Local 5 Digital Desk

SHERWOOD, Wis. (WFRV) – A Fond du Lac County girl is on a mission and is not letting anything get in her way.

Six-year-old Mackenzie Wilkens has visited 50 Wisconsin state trails and hiked over 100 miles this summer. She has hiked every trail in Northern Kettle Moraine State Park.

Mackenzie’s mother, Jennifer, says at first hiking started as a way for them to stay active while they’ve been spending so much time at home. Then the two decided to keep going. The pair started in May at Northern Kettle Moraine State Park in Campbellsport and have been working their way across Wisconsin. The family recently bought a camper and are taking their time visiting different state parks.

“I know quarantine has been really hard on a lot of families. I feel like it really brought us together. We really enjoy appreciating our state a little more.”

Wilkens works around Mackenzie’s school schedule, so they visit different trails on the weekends.

“We try to find the best times of the day and just go for it.”

Mackenzie was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at three years old. Her diagnosis hasn’t been easy for her family. The main symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis are limping, inability to walk in the morning, and joint stiffness.

“It was a really big shock finding out about it. It was lots of doctor appointments, x-rays, blood work, and MRIs. Just seeing what was happening inside of her body, and we couldn’t figure anything out going to a regular doctor. In the mornings are always the rough part. We have this motto that once we get going, once we get moving, it gets better.”

Mackenzie, a Girl Scout, says completing the trails was easy. Her favorite trail is Balanced Rock Trail at Devil’s Lake. Wilkens says while hiking, Mackenzie doesn’t have many problems.

“She had one small flare this summer. She had to get put under anesthesia and had steroid injections. She hasn’t let that stop her, she’s just so active. When she’s done with trails, she’s jumping up and down.”

Wilkens shared Mackenzie’s accomplishments on Facebook. The post has been liked over 4,000 times. She is appreciative her daughter’s story is resonating with so many people.

“It’s great. It’s fun to see us inspiring other people who have health conditions.”

To see Mackenzie already accomplish so much at such a young age is very emotional for Wilkens.

“The first year was a nightmare. To see her so motivated makes me very proud.”

Not planning on slowing down any time soon, Wilkens and Mackenzie are already planning a trip for next year to visit state parks outside of Wisconsin.

“As for now, we’re just trying to see it all.”

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