Gilroy family honors daughter with memorial fund

"In the community, the same thing kept coming up: how she was such a positive force," Andora Salcido told KTVU as she described her 15-year-old daughter Natalia. "She wanted to give back to everyone and she loved doing it. She really did."

Andora and husband Chris, a San Jose Fire Captain, describe the month since their daughter's death in the fatal accident as a roller coaster. They've received tremendous community support, but their daughter's loss is devastating.

"It says 'Dear Mommy, there are not enough words to explain all the things you do for our family,'" Andora read from a handmade Mother's Day card she found after Natalia's death.

"Her life force was so big. She as so fun, so outgoing, so bubbly," sighed her mom, "I miss that."

Natalia's yearbook just arrived, She was an honor student, who next year would have been a class officer and mentor. A special memorial insert has been added to the Christoper High School yearbook, honoring a hard worker, optimist and a giving person.

Her dad recalled how she insisted on helping at a holiday toy drive just days after surgery for a broken kneecap.

"While she is in pain and on crutches, she's there helping give the kids toys," reminisced Chris Salcido, "And she loved doing it."

The fatal accident happened the night before Mother's Day, just before 10 p.m. Natalia was on her way home, only about five minutes away, when the car veered off the road and hit a tree.

Two other girls, one driving and one in the backseat, walked away. Natalia was crushed in the front passenger seat. Impairment wasn't a factor, but the teenage driver's speed and inexperience may have been.

"The way teenagers think, they are invincible. That nothing's going to happen to them," observed Andora. "And I think as parents we have that mentality that this happens to someone else, not to our children."

The Salcidos are happy to see memorial bracelets with Natalia's name on them serving a tangible purpose: cautioning other teens to be careful.

"Many parents have been putting them on the gear shift of their children's cars," noted Andora. "And every time they get in the car, they look at it and are reminded."

With the legacy fund, the family, including 13-year-old sister Noelle, hopes to make the activities Natalia enjoyed available to young people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

Under the auspices of the Gilroy Foundation, the family will award grants to individuals and groups to support such pursuits as cheerleading, leadership, theater and Girl Scouts.

Even as a high school sophomore, Natalia was diligent about setting what she called "life goals." She already had several college possibilities and a career in mind: corporate event planning.

"Her story will be much bigger than her life span, " her dad predicts, noting that teens who are fund recipients may pay it forward in their own lives.

That way, Natalia's passion for giving and loving spirit will live on.

"Thank you Mom, for all you do," read Andora from the Mother's Day card her daughter never got to give her. It concludes, "Love Natalia, May 10th, 2015."

Natalia would have turned 16 a week after the accident.

Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Natalia Salcido Legacy Fund can send them to the Gilroy Foundation, Natalia Salcido Legacy Fund, PO Box 774, Gilroy, CA, 95021 or go to www.Gilroyfoundation.Org.