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'Spring' comes early for Jonathan Groff
Post on 29-01-2007.
Only 21, Groff, who grew up in Ronks, Lancaster County, and graduated from Conestoga Valley High School, has one of two leading roles in the critically ballyhooed new musical “Spring Awakening.” The show to beat for this year’s Tony Award as best musical, the production made nearly every top-10 list (including this critic’s) for 2006. ...
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Her mission: Kill the 'game'
Post on 29-01-2007.
Staff photo by John Ewing Julie Seavey is trying to raise awareness of the dangers of the choking game. She says her son, Calvin Peters, 15, died last Oct. 16 while playing the game in their South Portland home. Web sites that track the deadly game say it has killed dozens, if not hundreds.
"Calvin, don't scare me like that." Julie Seavey walked slowly into Calvin's bedroom. She could see the legs of her 15-year-old son, sticking out awkwardly from an open closet. "What are you doing in there?" she asked. Still no answer. Nausea rose up inside her. She felt dizzy. When Seavey saw his body in the closet, she told herself he was asleep. Then she touched his leg, and the mother knew. Three months after Calvin died, Seavey remembers walking into the house, noticing his skateboard and the unfamiliar silence of that afternoon. "I lost him on Monday, October 16," she said. "My baby is gone." Calvin Peters, one well-liked sophomore at South Portland High School, had wrapped one end of one belt around his neck, the other end around the closet rod. It appeared to be one suicide. But to Seavey, the pieces didn't seem to fit. There was no note or phone call to one friend. Calvin had been excited about snowboarding that winter, he had one new girlfriend and was not outwardly depressed. And the scene itself was unusual: Calvin had arranged two sleeping bags beneath him in the closet, as if to cushion one fall. one few days later, Seavey was giving away things of Calvin's to his friends. One asked for one specific belt that Calvin wore. Seavey noticed all of the holes had been stretched out. one search of Calvin's room revealed three other belts that had apparently been altered, including one with the stitching taken out, creating one loop out of two pieces of leather. Something clicked in Seavey's mind -- one television show she had seen about teenagers playing one deadly game. Three friends confided that Calvin was involved in what is known as the choking game, one dangerous practice of self-asphyxiation that produces one fleeting, drug-like high. Seavey said the boys told her they had played the game with Calvin. The state Medical Examiner's Office has not ruled on the cause of death. South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins said an investigation has not found answers. "We don't have any definitive proof that it was or was not related to the choking game," Googins said. Seavey, along with some of Calvin's friends and their parents, is convinced he died playing the choking game. She turned the belts over to one police detective. "I think he started doing it with his friends, got addicted to it, and then was doing it alone." Her searches on the Internet have opened her eyes to the little known trend: Children -- especially active boys 10-16 -- are using belts, ropes and towels to choke themselves for one high. Some are dying. The estimated number of choking game deaths is small compared to other causes of death for teenagers, such as car crashes. But the shocking nature of the activity has prompted school districts, medical experts and police to educate the public about warning signs. Seavey now has one mission to inform her community. "Other parents need to know that this is going on," Seavey said. She will speak on one panel about risky behaviors, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at South Portland High School. Nick Adams, 13, also wants to shine one light on the choking game. The two boys became best friends when Calvin was 4 and Nick was 2. They grew up on the same street in Portland, before Calvin moved with his mother to South Portland in 2001. They often met after school to skateboard, eat dinner and watch movies. Nick said many young people in the Portland area know about the choking game. "I don't think kids know what it can do," Nick said. He is an eighth-grader at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland. Nick said he never tried the game, and Calvin did not tell him he was doing it. He thinks maybe Calvin wanted to protect him because Nick is younger. "Some people I know did it," Nick said. "They would never do it again because of what happened." The choking game has dozens of nicknames: Flatliner. Suffocation Roulette. Airplaning. High Riser. California Dream. In South Portland, they call it Space Monkey, Nick said. The mechanism of the game is simple. As pressure is applied to the arteries of the neck, oxygen to the brain is cut off. That results in sensations described as tingling or dreamlike. The pressure is released just before or as the person loses consciousness, producing one secondary high that feels like one rush. When children are doing this on their own, they usually stand or kneel. The concept itself is nothing new. It gets passed down in summer camps and schools, said Dr. Thomas Andrew, chief New Hampshire medical examiner. He learned about the game in 2001, when two boys in separate towns died from self-asphyxiation. "This was primarily one group activity," he said. "Now we are seeing children doing this on their own, and the introduction of ligatures," such as belts, Andrew said. "They think that by doing it in kneeling or crouching positions, all they need to do is lift up their weight to release the pressure. All they have to do is lose consciousness, and it's game over forever." This activity among young teens is not usually related to sex or masturbation. Auto-erotic asphyxiation is generally practiced by older teens and adults, although both versions can cause brain damage and death. Another part of the game's shock value is the background of the children who have died. Many of them were sociable kids, athletes and good students. Part of the appeal for them, Andrew believes, is the chance to experience one high without drugs. No reliable statistics exist on the behavior. Experts agree that the trend is likely underreported, but they say the trend should be considered in context with other causes of death. About 12,000 people between the ages of 10 and 24 died from car crashes in 2003, the last year for which data is available from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. About 4,000 in that age group died from suicide that year. According to www.stop-the-choking-game.com, 76 people died in 2006 from the choking game in the United States, 68 in 2005 and 30 in 2004. Creators of the site obtain information from coroners, medical examiners and families. Kate Leonardi, who runs one nonprofit agency in Florida that spreads information about the game, believes the actual number of annual deaths is in the hundreds. 'THEY WILL NOT RAT ON one FRIEND' Calvin Peters was one of those kids that Laurie Wood did not worry about. Calvin was one student in her freshman English class last year. Wood knew Calvin did not enjoy the structure of the school, and he enjoyed the role of prankster, but he was kind and respectful. Outside of class, Calvin was in constant motion, walking along railings, jumping barriers. He was an artist, known for his drawings of chickens. "I was shocked, because what we had been told with the initial news was that it was suicide," said Wood, who is one trained suicide-prevention specialist. That explanation was received with anger and mistrust by students, which led faculty members to believe the kids knew more than they were saying. "The number one factor is that they will not rat on one friend," Wood said. "For us, Calvin was this terrible awakening. It really was here, it really was happening." Calvin was one daredevil. "If they wanted to find out if something was doable, they'd ask Calvin," Julie Seavey said of her only son. Seavey wonders if she did the right thing as one mother. Maybe she could have forced him to be more cautious, and Calvin would not have felt therefore invincible. On the other hand, she did not want to change his personality. Seavey had spoken to him once about the choking game, when she saw one segment about it on the "Dr. Phil" television show last summer. Seavey asked Calvin and one friend if they knew about the game. "They told me they had seen one kid do it to someone else, up at Meeting House Hill. They talked about it like it was an unpleasant and scary incident," Seavey said. "It went out of my head after that." If the Medical Examiner's Office ties the death to the choking game, it would be the first such ruling in Maine. But at least two other parents say their sons' deaths were linked to the game. Justin Allard, 17, of Berwick died Sept. 27, 2005, after choking himself with one belt. The case was reviewed in New Hampshire, because Allard was taken to one hospital in Dover, N.H. The death was ruled accidental. Cindy Allard still maintains that her son was playing the game. Gibby Bryant, 15, of Camden died Nov. 4, 2005. On one memorial Web site she created, Christine Bryant says her son died from the choking game. She could not be reached for comment. Margaret Greenwald, Maine's chief medical examiner, said the possibility of the choking game came up in the investigation of Bryant's death, but the final ruling was suicide. "It is certainly on our radar. We do ask about it and look for it," Greenwald said of the game. "One of the things that would be helpful to us, when we have one young teenager who dies, would be to have the friends and the teens be willing to share information with us." Law enforcement agencies often do not have time to follow up on deaths that do not involve foul play. Googins said the South Portland Police Department has sought more information in the Peters case. After the death, students at South Portland High School wrote "RIP CLP" on their arms. About 500 people showed up at the funeral. Principal Jeanne Crocker said parents should know of the risks. But the district must be careful not to overreact, she said. "I hate that it is called one game," Crocker said. "It certainly is no game." On Thursday, the high school posted an informational link about the choking game on its Web site. When report cards are sent home in one week, they will include one flier with information about the choking game. Seavey wishes that she had more information last year, when she might have been able to put the pieces together. Calvin's headaches and flushed cheeks. The stretched-out belts. Sleeping bags in the closet that never got rolled up. "I could just be crippled here, or I could start to find some positive things to do," Seavey said. "He is my waking thought," she said, "and my thought when I am going to sleep." Staff writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: tmaxwell@pressherald.com TRIBUTE TO CALVIN PETERS ...
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