May 24, 2014

Friends of Northwestern student killed in crash raising money for his family

Teenagers and co-workers mourning for their friend have banded together to raise money for the family of Frankie Adams, the Northwestern High School student who was killed last week in a car crash in Rock Hill.

Go inside the Mr. Express gas station on Ebenezer Road in Rock Hill, turn left and find the plastic jar sitting on a window-sill.

The message, in big red letters, is taped on the side: “Help donate to Frankie Adams!!!!” The goal: Raise as much money as possible so the family of the dead Northwestern High School student can place a headstone on his grave.

Police say Adams, 16, died at about 11 p.m. May 15 on Heckle Boulevard after he lost control of the Acura he was driving and crashed into a utility pole and two trees. He was on his way home from his job at Zaxby’s on S.C. 901, where he spent several hours a week in the kitchen cooking chicken and fries.

Speed, authorities say, was a contributing factor in the crash, but a more-detailed investigation into the accident is ongoing.

Adams, called by his middle name “Lane” by his family, was buried at Lakeview Memory Gardens in York on Tuesday after about 500 people attended his funeral at Freedom Temple Ministries in downtown Rock Hill, family members said.

In a statement, his family expressed their “deepest gratitude and appreciation for all of the love, kindness and thoughtful gestures that have been bestowed upon us during this time of bereavement.

“We are amazed by the outpouring of love and support received on behalf of our precious Frankie Lane. The loving sympathy you all have shown during this tremendously difficult time is so greatly appreciated. May God bless you.”

Adams’ friends are now banding together to help “bless” the family as much as possible. They’ve distributed plastic donation jars to several restaurants and stores in Rock Hill, including the Mr. Express gas station on Ebenezer; Ouzo’s Pizza on Celanese Road; Jackson’s Cafe on Heckle Boulevard; and Zaxby’s on Heckle Boulevard, where Adams worked.

“All the money is going to Frankie’s mom for a headstone,” said Emily Little, a 17-year-old Northwestern student who became friends with Adams when they took math classes together at the Phoenix Academy. “She really needs all the help she can get.”

Life without her close friend “has been a lot better since after the funeral,” Little said.

The weekend before Adams’ death, the two spent time at Little’s house, hanging out with mutual friend, John Fowler.

“It still don’t feel right not getting Snapchats from him or seeing him,” she said. “But, things have been better.”

Little said she’s doing her best to make “everything possible positive.”

So are the people who worked with Adams.

“We were open the very next day (after the accident) ... everybody was a little down,” said Trent Hogue, manager at the Heckle Boulevard Zaxby’s. “It wasn’t quite the same feeling that it would normally be. Most of the time, everybody has to get hyped up for a Friday night, because we know it’s going to be busy and it’s going to be crazy.”

But, last Friday night, “it was definitely ... a different air about everything.”

On Wednesday, Zaxby’s on Heckle will host a fundraiser in Adams’ honor. A percentage of that day’s sales will go to his family. Anyone who wants to help only has to go to the restaurant from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and place an order.

By then, Hogue said, employees hope to have a donation box set up for anyone who wants to contribute extra money.

The donations are “anything that we can do to help the family ... anything to kind of helping the healing process.”

Healing for Adams’ friends is coming slowly.

John Fowler, 17, met Frankie when he was a sophomore at Northwestern.

“He was so easy to laugh, make jokes with,” Fowler said, adding that most people got along with Frankie because he was “accepting” and “non-judgmental.”

“He was a really smart kid,” Fowler said. “He would say a lot of clever things. He was just pure good. That kid would never do anything wrong to any person.”

A week after losing his friend, “it’s hard for me to talk,” Fowler said. “I don’t know what to do now that he’s gone. It’s all about accepting and learning to accept that he’s gone and not forgotten.”

Carmen Rea, 16, likely will never forget Adams. They first met when she was a freshman at Northwestern and he was a sophomore. A friend introduced them and they “just kind of hit it off,” she said. In September 2012, she became Adams’ first girlfriend. Though “things didn’t work out” and they separated the following February, they remained close friends.

So close that when Rea heard that Adams had died in a car crash, she refused to believe it. Last Friday morning, halfway through her first-block class, a friend asked her about the news of Adams’ death on Twitter. Then, she knew it must be true.

Rea ran out of her classroom in tears, sobbing in the hallway until an administrator and friend found her. The administrator led her to a conference room, where many of Adams’ friends had gathered with guidance counselors and school officials to talk about the loss.

“He was always smiling, always joking,” she said. “He was always teasing us in a good way. I know he really wouldn’t want us to be upset.”

Rea has worked with Little to place jars at restaurants and gas stations around the city. On Friday, they were working on passing out the donation jars to more stores and venues.

“He was a very, very great person,” she said. “He’s very loved. He’s probably making fun of us for being so upset.”

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