Sorority walks in honor of deceased sister’s memory

The Phi Delta Kappa sorority participated in the annual Polycystic Kidney Disease 5K Walk last Saturday in honor of Emma Hutchinson, a student who passed away from the disease during her sophomore year at Trinity.

About 30 students from the sorority participated in the walk, including some who are also members of other organizations such as the Trinity Choir, Omega Phi, Kappa Kappa Delta and the Catholic Student Group. The walk was held at Schnabel Park in San Antonio.

Under “Team Emma,” PDK helped raise almost $300 for the event, using Facebook and word of mouth to spread  awareness of the PKD walk

Kristin Burnam, president of Phi Delta Kappa, explained why the sorority chooses the PKD walk as its main philanthropic endeavor of the year.

“We attend the walk because we had a girl, Emma Hutchinson, who was born with polycystic kidney disease,” Burnam said. “In 2008 she died of a blood infection. We do this in memory of her each year because it is a personal story. She was our sister. This was the fifth-year anniversary of the PKD walk.”

Noelle Parsons, former president of PDK, said she was unable to attend the walk this year due to work, but never missed it during her time at Trinity. Parsons said Emma was the reason she learned about PKD, which she would otherwise not have known about.

“We support this cause because of a sister in our history,” Parsons said. “She gave a perennial happiness and we, as PDKs, work to convey her memory as a sister who completely embraced our sorority as a part of her college experience.”

According to the PDKs, Hutchinson died in August of 2008 of a blood infection that was complicated by her PKD, a genetic disorder that causes large cysts to form on the kidneys. Considering her condition, Burnam said that the sorority knew Hutchinson to be a joyful and hard-working student. That description of her has been passed down during the last five years in an effort to inspire others and raise awareness of the disease.

“It’s very important to us to raise awareness about polycystic kidney disease,” Burnam said. “[Emma] was very involved in campus, she was very bright. She liked math and she was a grader for one of her professors. She loved Trinity, loved to try and take as many different classes as possible, just really interested in learning and getting her hands on everything she could.”

Parsons elaborated on Burnam’s sentiments and said that while she did not know Emma directly, the PDKs who did know her preserved her memory for future sisters. She said that when she was a first year, the seniors then were the last girls to know Emma personally.

“On bid night, they showed us a video about her life and it was easy to see her great energy,” Parsons said. “When I was president, I revamped the walk and asked Emma’s mother to write about her daughter’s story. She wrote with such grace and I’m told the piece was displayed again this year.”

Noted in a flyer detailing Hutchinson’s time at Trinity, “up until a week before she died, Emma was insisting 20 hours of classes wasn’t too much””there were just too many classes she wanted to take.”

Other student and campus organizations also helped contribute their numbers to Team Emma. The Catholic Student Group sent members on Saturday to support the PDK’s cause.

“We go to the walk because we have such a close relationship with Phi Delta Kappa,” said Camille DeMars, community service chair of the Catholic Student Group. “We want to support them and Emma.”

A motivating factor behind this support, DeMars said, has a lot to do with the fact that there is significant overlap of members from both groups.

“A good number of the PDKs are actually in Catholic Student Group as well,” DeMars said. “We definitely want to raise more awareness, so it helps to have members in both groups.”

Despite a smaller turnout this year, Burnam explained that efforts will continue, and that raising awareness is the next part of Hutchinson’s story.

“We encourage people to come and sign up under Team Emma every year,” Burnam said. “There’s no registration fee; people just come and support us and donate. If people don’t want to go, they can always donate with cash or Tigerbucks.”

More information on polycystic kidney disease can be found at