The parents of 11-year-old Garrett Pope Jr. are hoping their son can be remembered through books.
The Lancaster County School District and local staff are working to promote a GoFundMe page created by Garrett’s parents, Stacy and Garrett Sr., according to Indian Land Middle principal Chris Thorpe. The online fundraiser is designed to donate funds to help develop reading programs at Indian Land Elementary and Middle schools.
Garrett Jr., a sixth-grader at Indian Land Middle, died last Wednesday while playing “the choking game,” in which youths cut off their airwaves in an attempt to get a sense of euphoria. The boy loved to read, his parents say in the GoFundMe profile, and they agreed “that this is a need that the schools and your children will absolutely benefit from.”
As of noon Tuesday, The Garrett Pope Jr. Memorial Fund had raised $7,225 of its $25,000 goal and received 918 shares on Facebook.
“Certainly, our prayers and thoughts go out to them,” said Thorpe. “The young man loved to read, so the GoFundMe was established to help assist classroom libraries.”
The fundraiser is one of several areas the school district will address in the coming days to help students and faculty who are mourning the loss of Garrett.
Thorpe said the school has brought in grief counselors to help the students. Meanwhile, district officials are planning to meet this week to discuss a coordinated effort to educate parents and students on how to prevent others from taking part in the deadly activity.
Counseling children on heady topics such as death can often be difficult, says Thorpe, who said he wants to speak with students on an individual basis and have a unified approach.
“It just depends on where the kids are on their level,” said Thorpe. “It’s a difficult topic to talk about with anybody. ... There may be some parents out there who only want to have parent-to-child conversations, and we want to honor that, as well.”
Officially, Garrett Jr. died due to accidental asphyxiation, according to the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office. An autopsy was performed Thursday and the case is still under investigation, according to Deputy Coroner Tony Broome. Broome said the boy was found in his room around 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Pope wrote in a public Facebook post that he and his wife, Stacy, looked through the family’s tablets and computers and found no sign of Garrett researching the game.
“Whatever we can do to prevent this from happening to anybody else, that’s the goal,” Pope said in an interview Saturday. He said he believes it’s important to speak publicly about the incident.
The family is holding a Sept. 6 service at Burgess Funeral Home, 1800 Charlotte Hwy, in Lancaster. Viewing is 4 to 6 p.m. and the service will be from 6 to 7 p.m.
“It’s been a tragedy to deal with here at the school,” said Thorpe. “Everyone’s pulling it together to show support with the family. But everyone’s heartbroken and our heart goes out to the family.”
The family is holding a service today at Burgess Funeral Home in Lancaster. Viewing is 4 to 6 p.m. and the service will be held from 6 to 7 p.m.
Previous victims of the game have been reported to have tied ropes around their neck or to have asphyxiated themselves with a towel or dog collar.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a 2008 study that the game may also be known as “the blackout game,” “pass-out game,” “scarf game,” or other names.
The CDC encourages parents, educators and health-care providers to familiarize themselves with signs of the game. Those may include discussion of the game, bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, disorientation or the presence of ropes, scarves and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs.