11:09 PM EDT, September 22, 2011
A victim of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse was out of a coma and continuing to make progress Thursday. Andrea Vellinga, 30, of Pendletone came out of the coma a few weeks ago.
Vellinga sustained severe head injuries after the stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair on August 13.
Doctors said she is now communicating with family and friends by writing messages on a dry-erase board.
Vellinga cannot talk yet because of a tracheotomy, but those closest to her are celebrating the progress she is making.
On Thursday evening, Kendra Stock helped gather a group of high school friends to decorate a parade float in honor of Vallinga, which will be part of the Pendleton Heights High School homecoming festivities on Friday.
"She was homecoming queen and homecoming is really important to all of us here at Pendleton," said Libby Apple who went to school with Vallinga at Pendleton Heights High School. "We just wanted to show our support to her and let everyone know how much we love her and what's going on."
Five weeks ago Vallinga posed for a picture with Stock in front of the State Fair stage waiting for Sugarland to perform. The friends were excited to be standing near the very front of the SugarPit, but before they knew it the weather took a turn and the stage began to fall.
"I remember seeing that falling on me and kind of bending over like something was going to hit my back," Stock said. "I just kept running and the stage barely scraped my back a little bit and the force of it kind of knocked me down."
It took Stock several hours of searching before she learned that Andrea wasn't so lucky. She found her friend in the hospital, her head and back had been partially crushed by a falling beam.
For more than a month, many people in Pendleton tied ribbons and held vigils, praying Vallinga would emerge from her coma. Last week that began to happen and Kendra, who visited nearly every day, heard that her friend was beginning to communicate on a dry-erase message board.
"I just looked at her and I said, 'Do you know who I am?'" Stock said. "She grabbed the marker and the board and she wrote it. She wrote, 'Kendra, best friends'. That, honest to God, was probably, in the last five weeks, probably one of the best moments that I've felt in a really long time. Just because I knew her and I knew she knew me, and that that would come back."
Now, Stock is helping spearhead a weekend of fundraisers for her friend along with the homecoming float decorated in Vallinga's favorite shade of pink.
Yet Stock is also beginning to think about the celebration she'll have when her friend has her own homecoming.
"We are definitely going to (celebrate) and that is going to be one huge party," Stock said. "That is going to be one amazing day."
Vellinga's friends and family have planned several events to help raise support.
Vellinga will remain at an Indianapolis rehabilitation center until she fully recovers from her injuries.