Elyse Imani Purefoy had big dreams. She wanted to be a member of a college dance team and run her own business. She had the grades and gumption to make it happen.
But first, Elyse, 17, was excited for her senior year at Arabia Mountain High School in DeKalb County. After cheerleading since she was in third grade, she had made the school dance team. Elyse was beginning her second week of rehearsals with the team when the unthinkable happened: She collapsed Monday morning while running on the school track and was rushed to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“I’m heartbroken,” her father, Hank Purefoy, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “It’s all gone.”
A cause of death has not yet been identified, the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s Office said. Elyse’s family doesn’t want to speculate, but said she was dehydrated.
“We don’t know what happened,” Purefoy said.
Elyse began dancing with her two younger sisters at a young age, but also loved cheering, her father said. In seventh and eighth grades, she was captain of her squad.
A straight-A student, Elyse was president of her school’s Beta Club and also worked part-time at a local Zaxby’s. She was shy, but a natural leader and a hard worker. After a week of dance practices, Elyse returned to school Monday morning for another practice. One of her older brothers dropped her off.
“She was so excited and so happy, working on college applications and talking about college and dancing,” Purefoy said. In addition to her father, Elyse is survived by her two sisters, two older brothers and her mother.
Tuesday afternoon, Purefoy thanked family members, friends and community members who have offered comforting words and donations to help pay for a funeral service.
“She was a wonderful person, a wonderful spirit,” he said. “We ask that they keep us in their prayers. We’re trying to grieve and figure out how to grieve.”
Several people posted comments for the family on a Go Fund Me page, including one of Elyse’s former teachers, Bruce Pfleger.
“Elyse was a wonderful student in my class two years ago,” Pfleger posted. “She had a great mind and her work was exceptional. Moreover, she seemed like an extraordinary young lady. I remember her quiet demeanor and wry smile. Beautiful inside and out. Such a loss for her family and community.”
Funeral arrangements were pending late Tuesday.
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