Sorority’s 5K raises money, awareness about meningitis

About 120 people registered to participate in the fundraising run/walk.

Kevin McCahill

As the rain came down, more and more people poured onto Gamma Phi Beta’s front porch Sunday morning.

Some came with umbrellas and others in soaking wet sweat shirts, but all came to remember Kristin Marx, a former sorority sister who died of meningitis three years ago.

For the third year, the sorority had the Kris 5K Memorial Run/Walk to remember Marx and raise money for a scholarship in her name. Registration was $15 for participants.

Even though the rain was ceaseless, about 120 people registered to run or walk from the chapter’s house on 10th Avenue.

The course took participants over the Mississippi River on the 10th Avenue Bridge, along West River Parkway on the West Bank and over the Ford Parkway, ending at the River Flats on the East Bank.

“It’s important for the chapter to get together for a common cause,” chapter president Callie Cox said. “(Marx) epitomized what a sorority sister is.”

Marx died two days after being diagnosed with meningitis in March 2003.

Cox, as well as others interviewed, agreed Marx was an incredible person.

“She was one of those girls who was everything to everyone,” said family and social science senior Carla Hill, fighting back tears. “You could always depend on her.”

Marx’s parents, Sue and Don, also attended.

“They’ve done a great job,” Sue Marx said. “Every year it’s important to discuss this. Sometimes kids need to be reminded about it.”

Boynton Health Service provided information about the disease at the sorority house and has a meningitis vaccine available for students.

Students should be aware of the disease, said Dave Golden, Boynton director of public health. Studies show students living in residence halls have a higher risk of contracting the disease, most likely because of their proximity to other people.

“The disease is pretty serious,” he said.

About 20 percent of people have meningitis-causing bacteria in their bodies, but there isn’t a clear answer to what causes the disease.

He said the bacteria clearly are prevalant, but that researchers aren’t certain how bacteria develop the infection.

The vaccine, available at Boynton, can prevent about 70 percent of meningitis cases, Golden said. The vaccine is available for about $70.

Although cases typically are isolated, Golden recommended students practice good hygiene and get vaccinated.

“I’m glad the sorority is doing something to raise awareness,” Golden said.

Megan Juffer, vice president of public relations for Gamma Phi Beta, said that last year 250 people participated in the event.

“It was really hard for a sorority to lose such a great member,” Juffer said.

Chapter members have been much more aware of the illness, which can be contracted by sharing drinks or other close contact, and many have been vaccinated.

Juffer said the event will be important in getting the word out about the disease.

“It’s all about awareness. It’s such a tragic disease,” she said. “It hits so fast, and it travels quickly. It’s important that people know about it.”