MIDDLETOWN — A 15-year-old Middletown girl may soon come home to the city she's known her whole life more than a year after a devastating accident that left her permanently injured and her stepmother dead.
After seeing a plea online from the family of Sky Mendoza, a stage four paraplegic, asking for help building a residence for the girl, her father and her brother to live in, Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano said he thought the city could help make the dream a reality.
“I'm just at a loss for words,” said Orlando Mendoza Sr., Sky's father. “It's a blessing to have her here, and to have the city and the mayor do what they're doing.”
The City of Middletown Common Council voted Tuesday to donate a 0.15-acre plot of city-owned land at 52 Broad St. to a trust set up on behalf of Sky Mendoza. The family is now looking to raise $130,000 to build an accessible home for the family of three.
The young woman who dreams of having a pink bedroom is closer than ever to coming home almost a year after she moved into a rehabilitation facility in Albany where she is never alone, receiving around-the-clock care and regular visitors like her mother, Lashanta Brown.
Sky was in the backseat of a van with her brother, Orlando Mendoza Jr., who was 12 at the time, as her pregnant stepmother of 12 years, Jennifer Parisella, drove in the Bronx on Nov. 17, 2018. The van rear-ended a tractor trailer, killing Parisella instantly, and injuring Sky, Orlando and Parisella's brother Michael, 28.
Doctors thought Sky would never wake up after being without oxygen for a period of time as her body was covered by the wreckage; she was unconscious for about 22 minutes. But her family said she proved them all wrong by waking up within 24 hours of the crash, and day after day she continues to show her smile.
“She's here for a reason,” said Alicia Botero Maiorino, Sky's godmother.
Since the day of the accident, Sky's spirits have been high, and doctors are shocked by how much schooling she has been able to retain from before the accident.
But the pain from the loss of Jennifer Parisella, the “team mom,” and her unborn son has never dulled.
The day she died, Sky's stepmother was a farm worker from the Middletown area traveling to New York City to deliver produce to a farmer's market on her last week of work as she was seven months pregnant with her baby boy, named Noah. This was just over a year after Jennifer Parisella and Orlando Mendoza Sr. lost their son, Liam, after he was born prematurely in October 2017.
The accident has been harder on the family than the would-be high school sophomore, Maiorino said.
The Broad Street property has been owned, unused, by the city for some years, DeStefano said.
“This is to give her a home,” DeStefano said.
Building the home won't be cheap. It needs to be fitted with elements most homes don't have, like a handicap-accessible bathroom and a generator.
The Wallkill Engine Co. No. 6 of the Middletown Fire Department started off the fundraising with $13,485 donated to the Sky Mendoza Supplemental Needs Trust. Those who wish to donate can make checks out to the trust, courtesy of Cohen Labarbera & Landrigan LLP, and sent to 99 Brookside Ave. in Chester.
By Facetime, Sky thanked the city for their gift and drive to bring her home.
As the family says, “Sky's the limit.”