EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – A father is speaking out about the ‘choking game’ after he heard South Eugene High School’s reports of students taking part.
South Eugene reported Wednesday that students were recently overheard talking about playing what’s known as the choking game or fainting game. The fad has been around for decades but resurfacing; it’s exactly what it sounds like. Kids as young as seven and eight years old are said to be intentionally choking one another, cutting off oxygen to obtain what’s described as a ‘euphoria’ or a high without drugs.
It’s what killed Ken Tork’s 15-year old son Kevin in 2009.
Tork, from Bellevue, Washington, e-mailed NewsSource 16 as soon as he heard about what was happening at South Eugene High School. He has traveled nationwide since his son’s death talking about the dangers of the so-called game.
Kevin was home one night while his parents were gone. He was found passed out in a room. It was too late to save him at the hospital.
Tork said that night changed their family’s life. He knew his son didn’t commit suicide, what it was originally ruled as, so he did his research and found the popular phenomenon known as the choking game.
Teenagers learn about the game through friends and through the internet. YouTube has countless videos of teens playing it by themselves and with each other, either by using their hands or tools like belts.
Tork said because Kevin played this by himself, no one was there to relieve the pressure and therefore he asphyxiated himself to death.
The Tork family has made it their calling to travel and talk to schools about the choking game, something they describe as an epidemic.
“This is happening everywhere,” Tork said Thursday. “You already know it’s in your area. Now learn the truth about it.”
Tork said there has yet to be a school he’s been to that hasn’t heard about the choking game. It’s something kids are becoming addicted to if they’ve done it once. A lot of them don’t realize the danger behind it; kids do it out of peer pressure, often under a dare or out of curiosity. The kids, however, risk themselves for brain damage, death and potential criminal charges.
While he commends the South Eugene High School principal for not just sweeping the choking game rumors under the rug, Tork said a letter home to the parents needs to be a first step of many.
“It takes more than saying, ‘don’t do it.’ You say that, kids are going to go do it,” said Tork.
He knows first-hand how teenagers think, since he did have two of them, and said teenagers often listen to their friends more than authority. But, he admits, there is a responsibility in authority to show the kids how dangerous it is, just like teen pregnancy and drugs and alcohol.
“I am not there to entertain them,” Tork said about speaking in schools. “I give it to them straight up, they’re seeing tangible evidence of what this does to kids. They trust us as adults to give them the information they need. Sit down with your kid. Be honest with your kid, don't try to cover it up, don't try to sit and lecture just be honest. Say ‘here's this game that's out there, here's these kids that are doing it but here's the kids that are dying from it.”
According to the Ed4Ed website, where Tork does his outreach from, there have been at least seven reported cases of the choking game incidents in Oregon. A lot of deaths caused by the choking game end up as suicides, so not all of them are marked on advocate websites. There are thousands of cases out there, though, linked to the game nationwide and globally.
After airing the report Wednesday, parents offered Facebook feedback and e-mailed the station saying after talking with their kids, they realize it is prevalent in Eugene and at more schools than just South Eugene High.
Tork is advocating coming to Eugene to speak with area schools about his experience losing his son and about the dangers of the choking game. He does his outreach completely for free.
If school officials are interested in contacting Tork, he can be reached via e-mail at KLTORK@yahoo.com.
You can also check out his website, www.ForKevinsSake.com and his outreach program Ed4Ed4all.com.