New event helps kids ‘play it safe’

The death of 12-year-old Jacob Butt to "the choking game" has led his mother Carol to organize the area's first Play it Safe event at Clearwater Arena.
Submitted PhotoThe death of 12-year-old Jacob Butt to "the choking game" has led his mother Carol to organize the area's first Play it Safe event at Clearwater Arena. Submitted Photo

Tara Jeffrey

Carol Butt wants kids to know they can have fun, without risking their lives.

“Accidents are the leading cause of death for children and teens,” said the Sarnia mom, who’s launching the area’s first-ever “Play it Safe” — a hands-on event designed to remind youngsters and their parents about everyday safety issues.

Geared to kids ages eight to 16, Play it Safe will be held at the Clearwater Arena on May 2, mixing safety presentations with fun activities and prizes.

“So many lives have been needlessly lost, and so many deaths can be prevented,” said Butt, who knows all too well the tragedy of accidental death.

In 2012 her son Jacob, a student at Cathcart Boulevard School, died as a result of ‘the choking game’ — a deadly asphyxial activity that’s quietly killing school-aged children. He was only 12.

“It’s something that’s been going on for decades, yet nobody wants to talk about it,” said Butt, who has been working to raise awareness about the choking game and its deadly consequences.

She recently spoke to some 40 physicians and residents at London’s St. Joseph’s Hospital, where only four said they’d heard of the choking game — which involves deliberately cutting off blood flow to the brain, in exchange for a few seconds of feeling lightheaded.

A recent survey in Grades 4 to 12 found nearly 70% of students had heard of the choking game, 45% knew someone who tried it, and 6.6% admitted to trying it themselves, Butt said.

“They’re being told that it’s a safe game that you can get high from. The truth is, it can kill you,” she said, noting the study concluded that, had they known they could have died doing it, the kids said they wouldn’t have tried it.

In the wake of her son’s death, Butt launched the non-profit Jacob’s Legacy of Love, which will host the Play it Safe event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Participants will be asked to answer a series of safety questions, presented by groups like CN Rail, Brain Injury Awareness, and Sarnia Fire Services. Once completed, kids will have access to the arena floor for a variety of games, rides, activities and prizes.

“We’re mixing safety and fun, and we’d like parents to come to — so they can talk to their kids about safety, we everyone is on the same page,” said Butt. “Unfortunately, because I lost my child, I’ve become an expert.”

For more, visit Jacob’s Legacy of Love on Facebook, or email jacobs.legacy.of.love@gmail.com.