Return to story
Nancy Littlefield (left) comforts Olga Ruiz, grandmother of Selena Guzman,
Friends of Selena Guzman gather around a tree planted in her honor at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.
BY SCOTT SHENK
Jilmer Guzman choked up as he stood holding a shovel he'd used to drop a small pile of dirt around the base of the freshly planted white dogwood tree.
"Thank you," he said to about two dozen people gathered in a sitting area outside the entrance of Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The hospital near Massaponax is a place his daughter, Selena Guzman, spent a lot of time during the final months of her life.
Selena, a 16-year-old who planned to be a doctor, volunteered nearly 200 hours at the hospital in an eight-month span.
But that all ended on Dec. 20 when she was killed in a car accident on Salem Church Road in Spotsylvania.
In honor of her memory, the hospital had the tree planted and dedicated a plaque in her name.
"Every patient who comes here will see this tree," Rob Toonkel, with the hospital's guest services, told the small crowd. "By planting this tree, we did what Selena would want--give an uplifting touch and spirit."
Fellow volunteers, many of them her high school friends, asked that the tree be planted in her memory.
Toonkel told those gathered that the dedication was meant to honor Selena's short life.
"It's about a celebration," he said.
After Toonkel's brief speech, participants shoveled dirt around the dogwood's base.
"Help it grow," he said, "like she helped us grow."
Selena was a Massaponax High School junior when she was killed in the crash.
That night she had been involved in a fender bender with a Nissan Altima and was standing next to her Nissan Sentra in a turn lane with no lights on, according to Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Neely.
He said the driver of an approaching pickup truck didn't see the car and clipped it.
Her car spun around and pinned her between the Sentra and the Altima. She died at the scene.
The pickup driver, 32-year-old Spotsylvania resident Justin Shawn Gibson, has been charged with reckless driving. He faces a hearing on May 17.
Selena's friends and family said she was a giving, caring girl.
"She was a very honest person, very humble," said her older brother Renato Alfaro, who learned of her death while at basic training for the U.S. Air Force in San Antonio. "She always put herself second and everyone else first."
Aaleya Joe, a classmate and fellow hospital volunteer, said, "She was the nicest person. She had so much to offer."
She and Fiorella Jauregui, another fellow classmate and volunteer, said Selena's death has made them appreciate life more.
"She had plans like I do," said Fiorella, "and she never got a chance to fulfill them."
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436