Community rallies for cheerleader after Thanksgiving Day car crash

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The community is rallying behind the family of an Albuquerque high school cheerleader who is fighting for her life in the hospital after a car crash on Thanksgiving Day.

They’re opponents on the basketball court, but on Wednesday night both Albuquerque and St. Pius X High Schools sported Bulldog green for AHS cheerleader Vanessa Mendoza.

“She has a lot of broken bones, seven surgeries and she’s fighting,” Vanessa’s mother, Yesenia Mendoza said.

Vanessa has been fighting since Thanksgiving when, her mom said, Mendoza was on her way to dinner.

A car crash brought the holiday to a screeching halt. Police say a witness saw another driver run a red light.

That driver died, and Mendoza ended up in the hospital in a coma.

“She’s like my friend, my best friend,” Yesenia said of her 17-year-old daughter. “I miss her so much. I miss my baby.”

That familiar feeling has perfect strangers reaching out.

“I am just really here to give her family comfort and hope because my life turned out to be a miracle and so we know that miracles do happen,” said St. Pius Junior Nathan Barkocy.

He was also in a coma after a distracted driver hit him on his bicycle in January.

The school rallied him to recovery.

“I don’t consider St. Pius a school. I consider it a family,” Barkocy said.

Now that family says it owes Vanessa, the cheerleader for the opposing team, the same support.

The ticket sales from Wednesday night’s game, along with other donations, will go to the Mendoza family.

“We all hope that at some point we’ll actually get to meet this young lady that we’re helping,” said Jeff Turcotte with St. Pius X High School.

It was an emotional halftime following a school day dedicated to Vanessa with her school’s green, showing up all over St. Pius’ campus.

“I just want them to pray for my daughter, and I just want to tell them thank you for everything, for all the help, all the love,” Yesenia said.

Before the game even started on Wednesday, students had already raised more than $1,000 for the Mendoza family.

Students gave donations in order to swap out their usual school uniforms for jeans and green shirts.

Many are also donating to the family online. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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