Story by Paul Coro
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
The Grand Canyon University basketball teams showed teamwork, operated efficiently and hit the spots to produce sparkling results Thursday night, but it was well after their practices and far from campus.
The GCU men’s and women’s basketball teams, coaches and staffers made their annual service trip to Paul’s Car Wash, a weeklong fundraiser that CBS 5 and chief meteorologist Paul Horton stage each year to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona at Desert Ridge Marketplace in north Phoenix.
GCU, one of the event’s two nonprofit supporting partners, presented a $5,000 check to BBBS of Central Arizona during the Thursday evening newscast with the background of GCU Cheer, the Thundering Heard Pep Band and the GCU bus parked on the car wash platform.
The GCU volunteers made Valley streets look shinier and car wash onlookers feel brighter by picking up the final three hours of a blustery 14-hour day that included an event record of more than 150 cars washed.
“It’s a tradition for us,” Lopes men’s basketball coach Dan Majerle said. “Every year, we come out here and try to do as much as we can for the community. GCU is really good about supporting. For our players to come out here and support Paul’s Car Wash for Big Brothers Big Sisters is big. Our guys not only want to come out but they really enjoy it. It’s a great cause and I’m glad our guys are out here.”
BBBS of Central Arizona works with the K12 Educational Development Alliance as a Canyon Educational Participant organization.
“I love this event,” said GCU Executive Director of Academic Alliances and Operational Support Leigh Critchley, who oversees the CEP program. “I love watching our Cheer and our band and our basketball teams and coaches come out. Employees help out. It’s a great community spirit.”
GCU employees, relatives and friends started the sun-soaked shift of scrubbing a steady stream of cars that were flanked by sponsored canopies and a stage where the band Called to Serve was playing.
The real help arrived with the basketball teams, whose size in numbers washed cars quickly and size in height touched hard-to-reach vehicle rooftops. The arrival of each car was swooped upon like a loose ball on the court.
“It’s pretty fun to be together as a whole family,” GCU sophomore guard Mariah Mitchell said. “I grew up the same way as kids in this program who are growing up in poverty. It’s good to give back when you’re somewhere that you can do good for somebody else.”
GCU’s presence helped pick up the energy of the event’s regular volunteers with Thunder, cheerleaders and the pep band performing and the men’s and women’s players getting a rare chance to work together.
“It builds bonding for both teams, coming out together and doing it for the people,” Lopes guard J.J. Rhymes said. “It’s a good time. It’s all smiles out here.”
From trucks to Teslas, the players washed vehicles with only the occasional hose spray in an open window or delay for drivers’ curious basketball questions. There was mostly levity, especially when Majerle put his 6-foot-6 frame on one of the Rydables to drive the electric cart wrapped like a stuffed animal.
“It’s fun to be out here to support such a great cause and the mentorship and all the volunteers who put in their time and effort to help others,” GCU women’s basketball coach Nicole Powell said. “We get to support that mission. It’s a reflection of our values at GCU, supporting others and doing what we can to get out in the community. I’m glad my team got their hands dirty a little bit and helped others.”