Our family experienced a horrible tragedy. We lost our 15-year old son Kevin on a Monday night to a craze that has invaded our children’s lives, called “the choking game”. Before I tell you about how he died I would like to tell you a little about how he lived.
Kevin was the perfect son in every way. He was happy and fun loving and caring, He would be the first to jump in without being asked and help where needed. He loved his family fiercely. He loved to laugh and make others laugh. He was in several plays in school. He loved music, basketball, writing poetry and stories. He loved making swords and models and he was the most honest young man there has ever been. He truly was perfect in every way. We told each other several times a day that we loved each other and we hugged multiple times a day.
Everyone I have talked to has told me how special he was, and you just felt it when you were in his presence. I am just now finding out how truly amazing this kid was. His classmates got to see a side of him I never did because at home he was our baby boy. Home was where he came to be a kid. When he walked out that door every morning he turned into this strong young man that I can now only know through his friends' stories or his journals. His love for other people just reached out to you with out you even knowing it. One of his classmates told us that 5 minutes after she met him she felt she knew him her whole life.
I want to share with you three of the many stories that demonstrate the strength of his soul:
When he was 6 my wife had to go pick up her father at the train station in downtown Seattle. He asked if he could have 75c to get a bag of chips from a vending machine. The chips got stuck and did not fall out and my wife told him she didn’t have another 75c for another bag. A homeless gentleman overheard this, smiled, and said "Here you are" as he gave her the money for more chips, and left. As Kevin started eating his new bag of chips, he looked across the train station and saw the man that gave him the money. Kevin walked over, sat and shared the chips and they talked. Afterward, the man came back and explained with tears in his eyes that was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for him.
Two summers ago my father and his wife visited, and we all went to the Seattle waterfront to have dinner. A scary-looking woman asked me for money. She was an obvious addict so I told her that I would not give her money but she could have my meal. She looked past me and walked up to my son who had pulled a ten dollar bill from his wallet (money he earned mowing the lawn) to offer the woman. She said "thank you" and walked away. We immediately jumped on him and told him never to do that again, it was a kind gesture but that she was just going to go and buy more drugs, or that she could have hurt him (all the things a parent might say in that situation). Kevin became upset and started crying very softly and was quiet the rest of the night.
After everyone went to bed he came to me and asked to talk. He told me that he understood why we got mad at him but he just felt that he was supposed to give her that money that somewhere down the road it might make a difference in her life. My eyes filled with tears and I grabbed him and held him to my chest and told him to forget everything we said earlier. That sometimes we adults don’t see things as clearly as a pure soul, and clearly his was the purest soul God cold make.
A few months ago he was walking his sister home from the bus stop when a car drove by and yelled something at him and his sister. The car went up the hill and turned around and came back and as the car approached the passenger pulled out a knife and the car slowed down. Kevin grabbed his sister and pushed her behind him and stood to face these two boys ready to do whatever he had to do to protect his sister. The driver yelled an obscenity and drove away.
I want everyone to know this was the way Kevin lived his life everyday. There was no sacrifice too great. No task too big and for those of you that knew him… you experienced it. He had compassion for everyone he met that never wavered -- not even a little. He stood his ground for what he believed and didn’t care what anyone else thought.
We found something Kevin wrote: “I believe that life is eternal and life is a flame that will never go out. I am a Christian so I believe in God and heaven. I also believe that we go there when our life here is over. I believe that angels are the souls of our loved ones that come to see their families and to watch over them and be close to them and try to help them. This is what I believe.”
Two days before he died he and I were talking while sitting at the kitchen table, which we did often late at night. He asked about a friend of the family that died of cancer 6 years before. This friend of over two decades died in my arms at a hospital in Minot, North Dakota in 2003. Here in Washington, at the moment of her death, Kevin woke up and came downstairs very upset, telling his mom Norine had just died. In our table conversation years that moment, Kevin wanted to understand how he knew that. I explained sometimes people have connections which go beyond what we hear and see, and that this ability was very strong in our family history. I told him it was very strong in him as well.
Our conversation led to the topic of sacrifice. I remember telling Kevin there may come a time when I would have to sacrifice my life for that of another, and were that to happen he would have to help take care of his mom, though I would always be there spiritually to help him. When I die, Norine would be there to greet me; or were he to pass away Norine would be there for him as well. Kevin wanted to know if he had to sacrifice his life to save his mom and sister -- if I would be okay with that. I explained if it had to happen, I would be able to accept it because he would be saving the life of his mom and sister, and that was the way we raised him: To do what is right.
Kevin then asked if the same situation applied to a total stranger -- would I be able to handle that? I tried to explain that while it would hurt immeasurably, saving a life would be understandable because that's what warriers do. As he thought, he said that should he have to die, he would want it to be in the context of saving others. How many 15-year old boys in today's day and age even consider something this altruistic? This is the man my boy had become.
Our hearts have been destroyed by our loss. When I was at a point where I could not go on -- when I reached the bottom of my pain -- I suddenly felt his love come into my heart and pull the pieces together. I felt him giving me a message: “Dad I need to let people know about this. There are other kids just like me that are connecting online or at school, and are thinking of trying this. You have to stop it. I didn’t mean to die, I didn’t mean to hurt you, mama and Kelly. I’m so sorry but it’s up to you now to let people know”. My soul was surrounded with his love.
On the night he died, the paramedics said they had his heart beating and he was trying to breathe. Yet I think he was given a choice, and knowing our Kevin, he made the choice to let his death help save other people. If it meant he had to sacrifice himself, he would do so because that was kind of young man he had become. He knows how strong our family is, how strong our friends are, and that God will get us through this.
I ask anyone who reads this letter to pass the message on. Please pray for our son and our family -- that with God's love we will survive this. For those of you who have lost a child you understand our grief. For those of you who have not, please protect your children and share with them our story. Be as graphic and as candid as they can handle so that we can work together to stop the Choking Game. HUNDREDS of kids have died. This “game” is taking our children at an alarming rate and people have to know! Parents have to be told that this activity is not a fad. It is an epidemic killing our children. Share the details and resources you find on this site, and do your part to save lives.
Our Family's Six Month Update (September/2009) Hello everyone,
As we passed the 6 month mark, we wanted to send everyone an update on how we are doing. If you asked in March how we would be, we would have assumed we would never make it this far. Thankfully, we would have been very wrong.
We are actually doing okay considering the depth of our loss. God is with us and protecting us! I want to personally thank all of you from the depths of my soul for everything you have done for our family. You helped us spread the word about our tragedy, and we know beyond any doubt that YOU helped save countless lives by helping us bring this activity out of hiding.
God has made his presence felt in many miraculous ways during our journey and with the many things we have seen. Our faith grows stronger day by day. We made a vow to each other the night that Kevin died that we would not let this tragedy tear us away from God or from each other, and we continue to heal as a family. It was your thoughts and prayers that helped us be strong enough to get to that point where we could start to heal. There just aren't words to describe the gratitude we feel for what you all have done for us.
I also need to update you on our battle to stop the choking game. Some of you may not know this but through God's power and your efforts to forward our story, we were able to get all the way to the Today Show in New York just three weeks after Kevin passed. We also had two local TV interviews and two articles printed in the Issaquah press. We learned our story spread across this country like a firestorm, and was picked up by countless online news agencies and newspapers. It's comforting to see people read Kevin's story and told others. We received hundreds of emails thanking us for having the courage to speak out. Our drive to build awareness meant I was able to speak to two local schools at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. None of these healing steps would have happened without YOUR help. You need to know that YOU helped save lives!
Despite all the efforts to build awareness, kids are still dying. Too many people never hear about the Choking Game until it hits close to home. We know of at least 28 reported deaths since Kevin died; and we believe only about 10% of choking game deaths actually make the news. That would mean closer to 280 kids have died worldwide since March 30th, 2009.
I was contacted two weeks ago by a mom in Tennessee who lost her oldest son August 3rd this year. He was one month away from his 18th birthday. She found our story online, and told me that before she read about us she did not know others experienced the same thing she did. She also did not know there were other families with the same incredible relationship with their kids as she had with hers'; only to have the relationship taken away by this “game”. After reading our story she said her faith was renewed and her determination grew, and she found the courage to speak out as well. As a result, she is also spreading the word through the media and raising more awareness and preventing more tragedies. Once again, it was through YOUR help that she was able to find our story and was able to find some comfort in an otherwise unbearable, agonizing pain.
Four deaths were reported in an eleven day window in August alone. We lost Jay (17), Mayia (15), Travis (15), and Gordon (13). The worst part was they were all exactly like Kevin: Good kids, smart kids, amazing kids!
These families are just now starting on this same journey of loss, and it is for those families that have yet to experience the loss of their amazing children that I want to ask you again to help us continue to spread the word about this activity.
On this website, you can find links many videos, websites, and other resources to share with other people. One in particular I ask each of you to visit: thechokinggame.net On that site is a section called “victims”. Scroll through that list and see for yourself how many have names are being mourned. Then remember this list includes less than 10% of the actual roster of kids who have died.
This is an uncomfortable subject, and if you are not comfortable with it -- it's okay. We don’t want to place unnecessary pressure on anyone. Please understand it is not just for our children that we ask this of you. Our children are with God. Your awareness is for your children and the children of your friends and family.
I know in today’s world God is not always a strong presence in day-to-day life. It always seems to be a deep tragedy that has to unfold to bring us back to Him, yet it is always Him we turn to first. We are a prime example of that process. We want to tell you God does exist. We have seen many miracles which we won't list here, but we will happily share what we have experienced. Without God's power and love we would not be doing well at all. He comforts us and guides us and he makes things happen to help us, even though we dont always see it.
People keep telling us how strong WE are. We are not strong. We are only strong with His help. I owe everything to Him and I beg each of you to say a prayer of thanks to Him for what he has given you. If the sea of life has caused you to drift away from Him, then I beg of you to paddle back! Get Him back in your lives before a tragedy strikes. We no longer question why this has happened to us. We weren't given that answer, but we do wonder if God had been in our lives more prominently, we might have given our son different knowledge and then he might have been better prepared to deal with the temptation to try this so called fun, safe “game”.
We miss Kevin beyond words, but we thank God each day for the 15 incredible years we had together and for allowing us to have each of you in our lives as well.
I am so honored to be part of this community and I am humbled by the power of the support you so freely gave to us. Each of you has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life. Please share our story with everyone you feel comfortable sharing it with. Stand with us, and together we can stop this senseless tragic lie that is the choking game.
If anyone would like to talk with us personally please don’t hesitate to contact us we would love to hear from you. May God watch over each of you and protect your very precious children.
Ken Kathy Kevin & Kelly Tork
The finality of burying your son: A headstone was finally added to Kevin's burial plot after 2000 kids were informed by Ken about the Choking Game.
This is KING-5/Seattle's coverage of that April 30, 2011 event: