ROGERSVILLE — MaKinna Smith loved racing, loved animals, and talked about someday being a veterinarian before her life was tragically cut short last year in a car accident that occurred while she was on her way to a part-time job.

On Saturday, MaKinna’s racing family at Cherokee Race Park (CRP) in Rogersville paid tribute to those two loves in her live with a benefit race that raised $1,381 and a large amount of pet food for the Hawkins County Humane Society.

The 16-year-old Jefferson County High School junior was killed Aug. 18, 2019, in a two-car accident on Highway 25E while on her way to work at the local Sonic drive-in.

“She was a real sweet girl,” said CRP owner Christy Marrisett. “She liked everybody, and she loved racing. You never seen her mad or upset. She was just always happy and a joy to be around, and everybody loved her.”

Marrisett added, “She had just turned 16, and had gotten her license and started making some passes in her daddy’s Chevy S-10 (race truck). She also sometimes sang the national anthem. Up until the year before she had raced a Junior Dragster. She was track champion a few years ago and won a lot of races. She had raced since she was small, and she was pretty good.”

CRP held a benefit last year to raise money to help her family with funeral expenses.

“It was hard on her family, and it affected the racers too,” Marrisett said. “She was always there, and she was friends with everybody. The people we see every week at the race track become like your second family. When something like this happens the racers usually come together.”

MaKinna was the daughter of Todd and stepmother Kayla Smith; and Branda Melinn and stepfather T.J. Melinn.

She’d had the same dog, Roxie Mae, since she was little. But Roxie Mae had passed away a few months before MaKinna was killed.

“She liked animals, and she talked about being a vet,” Marrisett said. “She had the same dog most of her life, and she had cats. When we talked about doing another benefit race this year, her dad and step-mom suggested something to do with animals. So, I suggested the Hawkins County Humane society since the track is in Hawkins County.”

After Saturday’s benefit race, MaKinna’s stepmother mother, Kayla Smith, stated on Facebook, “MaKinna would be so proud and not a doubt in our minds, she’s smiling down. Thanks again for everyone’s love and support.”

Hawkins County Humane Society Director Sandy Behnke said everyone involved in her organization is grateful to MaKinna Smith’s family and friends, as well as dragstrip owners Randy and Christy Marrisett.

“Sadly we never had an opportunity to meet MaKinna, but we know she was an animal lover and we’re proud to share that kinship with her,” Behnke said. “We so sorry for her family’s loss. Her story has deeply affected us, and we’ll always remember her. We will put these contributions to good use in her honor.”