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Support surges for University of Alberta student athlete paralyzed after Costa Rica fall

Community rallies to support Alberta university grad paralyzed after Costa Rica fall
WATCH ABOVE: A recent graduate and member of the University of Alberta Pandas soccer program has been paralyzed from the waist down following a cycling accident in Costa Rica. Chris Chacon reports.

A recent civil engineering graduate and member of the University of Alberta Pandas soccer program has been paralyzed from the waist down following a cycling accident in Costa Rica.

Friends say Nicole Palladino, 24, was riding a bicycle on Jan. 14, lost control and fell off a cliff.

“She fell off her bicycle when she was going downhill in Costa Rica and she perforated her lung and then broke three vertebrae in her back,” friend and soccer teammate Rebecca Reif said.

“From then on, she lost feeling from the chest down.”

READ MORE: University of Alberta Pandas forward Alex Poznikoff earns top player award

Palladino, who is known by her nickname “Pal,” was in Costa Rica celebrating the completion of her undergraduate degree and her final season with the U of A varsity soccer team.

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She played on both the U of A and MacEwan University varsity soccer teams with Reif.

“She is so athletic and so passionate about whatever she was playing, tried the hardest, was super positive, was a great teammate and a leader, and she was just amazing to play with,” Reif said.

The two have spoken on the phone several times since the accident. Reif said her friend is maintaining a positive attitude.

“She’s a super, super optimistic person. She’s already planning ahead and is working on moving on from this,” Reif said.

“She took it with grace and she’s just being super positive about what she’s doing, even though this is a really traumatic thing that’s happened to her.

“She’ll find a new sport or a new activity that she’ll conquer and get really good at almost immediately. We just support her so much.”

Nicole Palladino, 24, a recent U of A grad and varsity soccer player.
Nicole Palladino, 24, a recent U of A grad and varsity soccer player. Courtesy: gofundme/Rebecca Reif

Her friends set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Palladino, her family and her recovery.

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“We just whipped the GoFundMe page up together, and we posted it and it blew up,” Reif said. “We’ve had responses from the entire soccer community. A Canadian women’s national player posted the link on Twitter.

“It’s just been an amazing response so far and we’re really happy.”

READ MORE: University of Alberta hockey players recall crash: ‘First thing you think about is Humboldt’

The campaign was launched Wednesday morning and as of Thursday evening, it had raised more than $85,000.

“All the funds are going to be going towards new modifications that need to happen to her house, and paying for more physiotherapy and rehab,” Reif said.

“It’s basically just paying for her new life.”

Palladino is expected to arrive back home in Edmonton Thursday or Friday.

U of A Pandas hockey team involved in QEII crash
U of A Pandas hockey team involved in QEII crash