Posted on October 29, 2009 at 10:53 PM
CHIMACUM, Wash. - In the town of Chimacum, folks still talk about the state champion baseball team from a few years back. The center of activity is the town's 54-year-old café, right next door to the feed store. It's consummate small town America and mind-numbingly dull to kids.
"It's not much to do except for the same stuff that you've already done," said one teen.
One thing most kids here hadn't done before until recently was something called "the choking game" where one person chokes another cutting off blood to the brain.
"Why do you think people are doing this? Because they think it's fun and they want to get high off of it for a couple seconds," said Julia Casal, witness.
Julia and classmate Bethany saw it happen a few weeks ago at Chimacum Middle School. An 8th grade boy collapsed to the floor right before their eyes in their morning English class.
"I was really shocked. I didn't know what to do. I thought he was going to die," said Julia
"I learned about it from a couple friends," said the boy who admitted to choking his classmate.
He said about half of the boys in the 8th grade alone have tried the choking game, never thinking about the possible consequences - until now.
"I mean I've done something that has killed people and I just," said the boy. "I don't really know what to feel. I mean, I feel stupid."
It would be convenient to pass this off as an isolated incident, a small town thing that rarely happens, but that would be a lie. The choking game is killing countless kids all across our country.
No one knows that better than the Tork Family of Issaquah. Eleven-year-old Kelly Tork called 9-1-1 after finding her brother Kevin unconscious in his room this past March. He had been playing the choking game by himself.
9-1-1 dispatcher: Go ahead and get him flat on his back on the floor. I can give you CPR instructions, okay?
Kelly: Please help me, I'm only 11 years old.
9-1-1 dispatcher: Okay.
Kevin's father, Ken Tork, is using the agony of losing a son to open people's eyes to what's going on.
"There are no winners when you play the choking game," he said.
He told his family's story to anyone who would listen at an assembly at Chimacum Middle School in response to the recent incident there.
"They actually had Kevin's heart beating, and he was breathing, but he dies on the way to the hospital," Ken told students.
It's an intensely personal look at the losers left behind by the choking game, complete with that 9-1-1 call, pictures from the 15-year-old's funeral and a father's final kiss to his beloved boy.
"I can't save my son, but if I can save one of you," Ken told the students.
By the assembly's end, there was evidence the kids were getting the message by the family filling the void left by a deadly game.
"One kid comes up and hugs you and says 'Thank you for coming here today.' That's why we do this," said Ken.
There have been at least 28 more deaths attributed to the choking game worldwide just since March. Ken Tork believes the actual number is much higher because there is no procedure to accurately track them.
For more information, go to www.chokinggame.net and www.forkevinssake.wordpress.com.