Nember 6, 2000
WHS senior shows heart of gold with random act of kindness
by Deborah Stone
Woodinville High School senior Laith Frites has not had it easy these past two years. After suffering a skull fracture and massive brain injuries from a horrific car accident in 1998, he spent countless hours in rehabilitation, trying to mend his body and mind. Today he is almost fully recovered, but still fights with some short-term memory lapses.
"The accident left me with a fifteen percent chance of survival," says Frites. "I was ejected out of the car and landed two lanes over under the speeding truck that hit me. I have had ten surgeries over the past two years. It's been an incredibly long and difficult experience, but all I can say is that God was looking over me that night and somehow I'm still here."
Frites has a deeper appreciation of life and feels that his future is wide open with many possibilities. He is thankful to the community for all the support they gave him during his recovery period and realizes that he couldn't have made it through without this support.
Longtime friend Sergeant Kent Baxter of the Woodinville Police sees Laith's accident as being the impetus for his desire to give something back to the community.
He says, "I think Laith has a greater appreciation for others with troubles after what he has been through. He's always been a natural leader and a big-hearted guy, but the accident has just reinforced these qualities in him."
Last month Frites took it upon himself to raise money for a Woodinville family who had lost their home to a massive fire. He didn't know the family and had never met their daughter, a student at WHS, but had heard about the incident and was saddened by it.
"I really felt bad for the family because a house fire that destroys everything you have is such a tragedy," explains Frites.
"I think fire is one of people's greatest fears. Last year I took a fire and life safety course through the high school and learned all about fire, so I really feel I have an understanding of the damage that it can do and how scary it must be when it happens to you."
Frites approached WHS fire and life safety instructor Tim Steiner about possibly helping the family and Steiner encouraged him to follow through with this intention.
"The next day he came to me," says Steiner, " and said that he wanted to get the whole school involved. He planned to get students to donate money to a fire fund and right away he got started on making others aware of the cause. Laith's actions showed maturity and leadership."
For three days Frites sat in the courtyard at WHS and roamed the cafeteria with a big tub marked "Fire Fund," making announcements with a megaphone to get the attention of the students.
He collected over $800, which will be made into a gift certificate to Fred Meyers for the family to use to help replace some of their possessions.
"Students responded to the cause and were very generous," comments Frites.
"I think it helped that I know a lot of kids because this is my fourth year at WHS (due to his injuries he missed out on a year of school) and I am a familiar face around there."
Frites is modest about his actions and explains them by saying that he simply likes to help others.
He says, "I like doing good deeds and random acts of kindness."
This doesn't surprise Sergeant Baxter. "Laith has always been admired by his peers for his leadership and for his heart of gold. I have seen him mature over the years and it has been a pleasure to see him grow from that seventh grader I first met who gave off a tough-guy image to the mature, caring individual he has become now."
Frites' plans for the future are not yet decided, but he is exploring options for further education after his graduation with the possibility of becoming a paramedic or a firefighter one day.
"I see these careers as being right for me because they involve helping people in an action environment and depend on good leadership skills. It would be great to be involved in this type of community service work."