The Satellite Beach 12-year-old was struck while crossing State Road A1A on her way back home from the beach.

A 12-year-old Satellite Beach girl on life support donated her organs on Christmas, three days after she was struck by a vehicle on a state road mid-block crosswalk near her home, said her father, Mark Nelson.


Sophia Nelson was a sixth grader at Surfside Elementary. She loved dolphins, and her favorite color was blue. During late afternoon on Christmas, she donated organs at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando — helping save the lives of four children, Mark Nelson said.


Hospital staffers paid tribute to Sophia, who lost brain function shortly after the Sunday crash, during an organ donor "honor walk" on her way to the surgical ward. Attendees silently listened to a recording of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" during the ceremony, and relatives and friends held simultaneous candlelight vigils across the country.


"Every Christmas when I hear that song, I'll remember my angel saving four other lives with her last act," Mark Nelson said.


The crash

The Sunday crosswalk crash has ignited social media criticism of the Florida Department of Transportation's new SR A1A mid-block crosswalks, where pedestrians push buttons to activate flashing yellow warning lights.


The girl was struck at 5:37 p.m. Sunday by a northbound vehicle near Ellwood Avenue, Satellite Beach police reported in a press release. Mark Nelson said his daughter pressed the button and activated the lights, waited for several cars to pass, then stepped into the crosswalk during a "long gap" before the next car. But the oncoming vehicle did not stop and struck her, he said.


They were returning home from the beach with her grandfather, Andy, and dog, Coal, to wrap Christmas presents and prepare for a holiday party.


Mark Nelson hopes that officials install informational signs at SR A1A mid-block crosswalks that warn kids and adults to avoid stepping in front of moving traffic. He also hopes Brevard Public Schools officials will emphasize crosswalk safety along the beachside highway.


"I talked to her principal, and I'm going to meet with her and hope there's some teaching moment we can get out of this," Nelson said Thursday during an interview at his home.


"I had told her, 'Stop and wait until the traffic stops before you go.' And she had crossed that crosswalk hundreds of times going to the beach. They go to the beach pretty much every day," he said.


Arrangements are pending with Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic.


The driver, who has not been identified, was fully cooperating with the crash investigation, the press release said. Messages seeking comment were left Thursday for Satellite Beach Police Cmdr. Brad Hodge, who is overseeing the investigation.


A community remembers Sophia

Thursday, someone left two red carnations, a yellow carnation and baby's breath flowers at the Ellwood Avenue crosswalk. A Facebook campaign launched Thursday encourages Satellite Beach residents to display blue ribbons on homes, mailboxes and businesses to remember Sophia.


"Everybody's very upset over this. Satellite Beach is a very tight community. And the Surfside community is very tight-knit," said Katie Parsons, who organized the blue ribbon campaign.


"My daughter has been in school with Sophia since kindergarten. And they're sixth graders now," Parsons said.


"The whole point is, when her family is out in the community driving around or walking around, walking their dog, they'll see these blue ribbons and know that we're there for them," she said.


FDOT's work on pedestrian crossings

In a $1.1 million project, FDOT workers are now installing a series of raised concrete pedestrian mid-block crossings within the SR A1A median from Indialantic northward into Indian Harbour Beach, across 3.8 miles. Dozens of orange barrels dot the highway at these locations.


These pedestrian crossings will feature signage, crosswalks, curb ramps, pavement markings, sidewalk modifications and lighting. Lane closures can be expected through early 2020.


Mid-block crosswalks were installed earlier this year to the north, in Satellite Beach and South Patrick Shores. In March, some Brevard County leaders questioned their safety during a Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization meeting.


More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition asking for removal of the newly installed crosswalks between the Pineda Causeway and Melbourne Causeway. The petition also asks for creation of a citizen review committee to formalize approval of any future crosswalks.


Residents are trying to organize a protest at 2 p.m. Saturday near the Ellwood Avenue crosswalk, according to social media reports.


'Everyone just loved her'

Thursday at Surfside Elementary, a group of mourners wrapped blue ribbons around palm and pine trunks facing Cassia Boulevard. One was Jamie Malta, a fifth grade teacher who had Sophia in her class last year.


"She was super sweet," Malta said. "Everybody just loved her.


"I think it is all just very sad — and I think that everybody here knows that it could have happened to any of us. And it could have happened to any of our kids," she said, crying.


Mark Nelson said he is suffering flashbacks of the crash: "I can't beat myself up. I shouldn't have looked away. I should have held her hand. I should have reminded her not to go out," he said.


Zach Green and Sophia were classmates since first grade. Thursday afternoon, he went to her family home and handed Mark Nelson a small bag of gifts — a candy cane, a succulent, Starburst candy and a card — that he bought for Sophia during her three-day hospital stay.


"She was a great person. She was really funny," Green said.


Mark Nelson and Green fought back tears during their brief visit.


"I'll never forget her smile, her laugh. She had a great sense of humor," Nelson told Green. "Never forget her, OK?"


This story originally published to floridatoday.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.