A colorful memorial of balloons and flowers were placed on a bank outside of the Zaxby’s restaurant where 17-year-old Elyse Purefoy worked as a cashier in Stone Mountain. The rising senior at Arabia Mountain High School, who was a member of the school’s dance team, collapsed on June 10 during a summer training workout and was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Purefoy was a straight-A student who worked part-time at Zaxby’s.
Kimberly Cuffie, one of Zaxby’s shift managers, said workers at the restaurant were shocked and saddened by Purefoy’s death.
“We are all praying for her family,” said Cuffie, who described Purefoy as a quiet, shy girl.
Cuffie said that Zaxby is hosting a fundraiser to help the family with funeral expenses. The fundraiser and a balloon release will be held on Saturday, June 15, between 5 – 8 p.m. at the Zaxby’s located at 451 S. Deshon Road, Stone Mountain.
“We just want to do whatever we can to help the family,” Cuffie said.
The city of Stonecrest held a moment of silence for the Purefoy family after learning of the student’s death during the City Council meeting at City Hall on June 10, the day she died. Arabia Mountain High School is located within the city of Stonecrest and people attending the meeting were shocked by the breaking news.
“As a father of two sonse, it’s unimaginable for me to lose one of them. My heart goes out to the family. God bless them,” said Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary.
At On Common Ground News’deadline on June 13, Elyse Purefoy’s cause of death had not been determined by the DeKalb Medical Examiner.
Meanwhile, the incident is under investigation. Students said Purefoy was running on the school’s field with other members of the dance team when she collapsed during a morning workout. Some students told news reporters that Purefoy asked for water during the training but was denied by the coach supervising the workout. The coach’s identity has not been released to the public.
One mother and daughter, who spoke under anonymity, told Channel 11Alive that there is a culture of hazing and water deprivation among coaches overseeing the dance team’s training exercises.
Members of the dance team have been called in to speak with the DeKalb School District’s police.
Purefoy’s father, Henry “Hank” Purefoy, set up a Gofundme pageto help with funeral expenses. As of June 13, the Gofundme campaign had raised $12, 002.
Hank Purefoy expressed the family’s deep grief in a post on the Gofundme page:
“Today started just like any other day. I made you breakfast and lunch, and hugged you and told you to have fun at dance training. I smiled as I saw you and your brother get in the car to drive you to practice, but who could have known that you would not be coming home to us.
The doctors did their best to bring you back but your heart just stopped working.
Elyse you are a beautiful spirit. And we will miss you so much.”
Thank you to everyone who has called, prayed and shown support during our time of bereavement. There are no words to describe the hurt and loss we feel.
We love you Elyse…
In a letter to the Arabia Mountain High School family, Principal Rodney F. Swanson said:
“Our hearts and thoughts are with the Purefoy family and all who knew and loved Elyse. Our school counselors were on-site today, and we will have additional grief counselors available tomorrow at the school for anyone needing support during this time. As additional information is shared by the family in reference to arrangements, we will share it with you.
Our thoughts go out to the family during this time of need. I know we will come together to support, and lift one another as we remember Elyse.”
DeKalb County School District officials released the following statement:
“The entire DeKalb County School District community, and especially the Arabia Mountain High School family, mourns the passing of a member of the school’s dance team. Our hearts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”