Gilroy mourns Natalia Salcido

Cheerleaders from Christopher and Gilroy high schools line the entrance to the Don Christopher Sports Complex, where a candlelight vigil was held in memory of Natalia Salcido Monday evening. Salcido, a 15-year-old sophomore cheerleader at Christopher, was

GILROY—More than 1,000 people gathered at a somber candlelight vigil Monday at Gilroy’s Christopher High School to remember Natalia Salcido, the cheerleader killed in a car accident on Mother’s Day eve, a week before her 16th birthday.
With members of the Salcido family in attendance, participants, many of them friends and classmates of the victim, carried lit candles during the 8:30 p.m. vigil and stood silently grieving the loss of the sophomore.
Salcido was killed when the car she was in veered off Miller Avenue on the night of Saturday, May 9 and hit a tree.
The driver and a back-seat passenger, a male and female who also are CHS students, were not seriously hurt. Salcido was trapped in the front passenger seat when emergency personnel arrived, removed her from the vehicle and rushed her to hospital where she died of her injuries.
Police initially reported her age as 16, but the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office and school officials later confirmed her age as 15.
Monday’s vigil ceremony took place on the football field where Salcido performed as a member of the school’s cheer and dance team. It was somber but touching, CHS Principal Paul Winslow said.
“We have a community that will absolutely rally around each other in the face of tragedy, which is a testament to the kids we have here,” he said. “It was beautiful.”
The turnout, well over 1,000, was a testament to the kind of person Salcido was in life as much as it was an example of how Gilroy reacts to a tragedy, Winslow added.
“You can take tragedy and be affected by it and do nothing with it, but the kids did something with it; they celebrated her life,” Winslow said. “It shows that we’re going to protect our own and rally around our own when times get hard.”
As the community mourned, more than $39,000 had been raised by Friday morning on GoFundMe, an online fundraising website, to help the Salcido family.
Called the SJFD Salcido Family Fund, the site was created by Lars Melodia. It says the amount was raised in two days from 355 donors.
One donation reads: “Sending strength your way during this tragic time. Our deepest condolences, The Weiler Family.”
Another, signed by Mike Gomez, reads, “We are devastated and heart broken for you and your family. Know that we are walking right next to you and supporting you in every way possible.”
At the high school, grief and peer support counselors were available on campus Monday and throughout the week, and will be for as long as students need them, according to Winslow.
“Some kids didn’t come to school because they were grieving at home,” he said. “They don’t even have to go to school that day if they need services. If they want to come on campus to get the services and go back home, we’ll offer that.”
Fifteen mental health professionals, including psychologists and counselors, as well as pastors and chaplains who volunteered to lend a hand, will be retained on an “as-needed” basis, the CHS principal said.
“What the kids need, we’ll give them,” he said.  “Our No. 1 priority is our students and the health of our kids…we’ll provide services as long as they need them.”
The investigation into the cause of the collision just before 10 p.m. is ongoing, according to GPD Sgt. Royce Heath. The car veered off the road in the 6300 block of Miller Avenue at a left-hand curve and hit a mature tree, ripping a gash in its trunk.
“It does not look like drugs or alcohol were involved,” he told the Dispatch. “There is a possibility speed may have been a contributing factor but we don’t have any confirmation of that right now.”
A memorial service for Salcido will take place at 12 p.m. Sunday in the main gym at Christopher High School, according to Winslow. The event is open to the public.
“You can take tragedy and be affected by it and do nothing with it, but the kids did something with it; they celebrated her life. It shows that we’re going to protect our own and rally around our own when times get hard.”
-Paul Winslow, Christopher High School principal
A memorial service for Natalia Salcido will take place at 12 p.m. Sunday in the main gym of Christopher High School, according to school officials. The event is open to the public.

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