Benefit dinner held for girl who died in car accident

Alexis Hope Smith died in January accident in Waynesville.

Beavercreek High School junior Alexis Hope Smith tweeted her excitement about the coming weekend hours before the car she was a passenger in was pushed into a guardrail in Waynesville, recalled 14-year-old Mikayla Berry.

Smith’s Jan. 26 death stunned friends and classmates – giving many reason to think about the fragility of life and how suddenly tragedy can strike, said Berry, a friend of Smith’s sister.

“This can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are,” the Beavercreek freshman said Sunday at a spaghetti dinner to raise money to offset the cost of Smith’s final arrangements. “She was a really sweet girl. She was kind-hearted.”

More than 1,000 people attended the fundraiser at Beavercreek Church of the Nazarene. They dined on more than 200 pounds of spaghetti donated by Beef O’Brady’s of Beavercreek, Smith’s former employer.

Tom Kretz, president of the Beavercreek Football Club, said the event was an example of how a community can rally. It involved the football programs of Xenia, Carroll and Beavercreek high schools. Smith’s father, Mark, is a Xenia teacher and the running backs coach at Beavercreek.

Beavercreek offensive lineman Austin Johns said Mark Smith is a “second father” to him and many of his teammates.

“We wanted to do this to help him and show our support,” the 17-year-old junior said. “She had so much to look forward to.”

Players cleaned tables and helped set up the dinner expected to raise $5,000 to $10,000.

Joy Johns, Austin’s mother, collected the $10 admission fee at the door.

“I think it makes the kids think about what can happen in an instance,” Johns said.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said Smith, 17, was the front right passenger in a 1999 Pontiac Grand AM as it traveled north of South Main Street in Waynesville at about 9 p.m. Jan. 26.

The car’s driver, Chelsea Miller, 17, of Dayton, failed to yield the right of way after leaving a stop sign at the intersection with Ohio 73, troopers said.

The Grand AM was struck on its right side by a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer driven by Kaleb Shannon, 20, of Waynesville and pushed into the guardrail.

Miller and two backseat passengers were injured in the crash. Shannon was not.

At Sunday’s dinner, Mikayla Berry’s mother, Michelle, held back tears she thought of what can happen on the road.

Berry’s 16-year-old son Mike recently began to drive and often takes his sister to school.

Crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. They account for more than one in three teen deaths.

Talking to kids about safety behind the wheel is key, Berry said.

“Kids take a lot for granted,” she said. “You don’t want to preach about how to drive, but it makes (them) more aware.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2384 or arobinson@DaytonDaily

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