By Emily Sorensen
A grieving Poway family has turned the loss of their daughter into a charity to support student athletes.
Cindi Aguirre and nearly 70 walkers braved the cold morning weather Sunday, Jan. 13 for the second annual Veronica’s Smile 5K Walk, held at Lake Poway. The walk, which raises money for the Veronica Aguirre Memorial Fund, is in memory of Aguirre’s daughter Veronica, who was 17 years old and a senior at Poway High School when she was killed driving drunk on Dec. 11, 2009.
“It was a nice turnout,” said Aguirre, who noted that there were a few less walkers than last year, though it was probably because of the frigid temperature. “It was really fun, and a really nice day, not nearly as cold as we expected. It was 32 degrees instead of 27 degrees,” said Aguirre. Perhaps the cold was the reason people seemed to finish faster this year. “I think a few shortcuts might have been taken,” Aguirre said, laughing. “There are probably a few sore muscles out there.”
Though the walk left Aguirre in good spirits, its mere existence is much more somber. Aguirre and her husband were devastated after the loss of Veronica, only a month before her 18th birthday. “She took care of people, she absolutely loved everybody. And everyone loved her, she had a smile that lit up the room and touched your heart at the very same time,” wrote Aguirre in a letter about her daughter.
Determined to turn their loss into something positive, they started the Veronica Aguirre Memorial Fund, which provides funding to student athletes who cannot afford to participate in sports. Veronica herself was the captain of the varsity cheer squad at Poway High School, and Aguirre wanted to continue Veronica’s love of sports with others.
Finding themselves with money left over from donations from concerned family and friends, the Aguirres, not wanting to spend the money on themselves, founded the memorial fund in their daughter’s name, and used the leftover funds to send some cheerleaders to a competition they couldn’t afford to attend. Aguirre said the fund has also provided money for Pop Warner athletes.
The walk, which is the memorial fund’s main fundraiser, along with a Panda Express fundraiser, celebrates Veronica’s life. “We wanted to do something special together on her birthday,” said Aguirre. Veronica would have turned 21 on Jan. 15. “We do something for her birthday, and her anniversary.”
In addition to the memorial fund, Aguirre also does educational speaking with the Hope Foundation about the dangers of drunk driving. “I don’t want anyone else going through what we went through,” said Aguirre.
Aguirre said that next year she hopes that Veronica’s Smile will be bigger and better, with the Hope Foundation expressing interest in being a sponsor.
Mostly, Aguirre just wants to continue helping people in Veronica’s memory. “She’d appreciate it,” said Aguirre. “We just want her to be proud of us.”