It’s the season of giving and caring. Athletes and their teams across the East Valley are engaging in activities consistent with the spirit of the time to help others.
The Desert Vista High girls volleyball team got an early start. Throughout the summer leading up to the season, coach Molly West searched for ways to honor Alex DePriest, a popular player and student on campus, who passed away in April of complications associated with type 1 diabetes.
She was 17.
Finally, the light bulb lit for West. She changed the theme of the team’s annual father/daughter car wash.
“We’ve done the car wash for close to 20 years,” West said. “We decided to do our fundraiser this year in honor of Alex and donate all of the funds to Juvenile Diabetes (Research Fund).”
Each girl and her father wore pink Desert Vista volleyball shirts with DePriest’s jersey No. 7 on the sleeve. The team promoted the fundraiser with flyers and pre-ordered tickets.
Two washes took place, one at Yoasis Ahwatukee and the other across Chandler Boulevard at Uno Mas Cantina near the school. The team normally makes about $1,400.
This year, the car washes brought in more than $3,000.
“It became more than just a car wash. It was a way to honor Alex and that’s what was awesome about it,” West said. “We will continue to do that for now and find ideas for next year to promote it even more.”
West shared with her team the legacy that DePriest left, one of hard work and dedication. West retired DePriest’s number on all levels of the girls program this season and along with the boys team created the Alex DePriest Award.
“The award was for a player who showed characteristics that we felt needed to be recognized,” West said. “It’s anything from team spirit, attitude, to overall work ethic. It’s everything Alex encompassed.”
West added that she will continue to look for ways to honor DePriest going forward. To her, it’s the least she can do for someone who meant so much to so many at Desert Vista.
It’s been eight months since the DV community learned that the beloved DePriest had succumbed on April 3. DePriest, a senior, was out of town with a friend. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age and had reactions before.
“It was shocking, devastating,” West said. “Alex was getting ready to go off to ASU and get into nursing. It affected everybody. It was tragic and unexpected.”
West coached DePriest from her sophomore to senior year at Spiral Volleyball Academy, and again when she was a two-year starter on the Thunder’s varsity team. DePriest also was a manager of the boys varsity team. Her death came just as the Thunder boys were preparing for the 6A state playoffs.
“The first match after she passed, it was tough,” West said. “It’s hard to talk about.”
Signs in DePriest’s honor appeared at the game while the team and crowd wore pink shirts, her favorite color. Highland players – Desert Vista’s opponent that night – delivered flowers to the open seat on the Thunder bench dedicated to her. Desert Vista players placed roses and a bag of Fritos – her favorite snack – next to her jersey.
It was an emotional night in honor for a girl who had made a positive impact on so many at Desert Vista.
“Alex had a lot of good, strong energy,” West said. “She had this loud, outrageous laugh you would recognize anywhere. She was a good kid and everybody knew her.”
Honoring DePriest didn’t stop that night. The boys team continued wearing the pink shirts throughout the playoffs as they went on to win the 6A state championship.
“Alex was our spark plug,” West said. “Even all of the officials in volleyball knew who she was. She meant a lot to this school.”