VANCOUVER, Wash. (KATU) - The community is mourning the loss of a young girl. Gabby Perez's family says the 13-year-old Cascade Middle School student died while playing a dangerous game.
On Wednesday night, dozens gathered at the school to remember the red headed, fiery, fiercely happy seventh-grader. The weight of the night was evident as they lit candles and tears began to flow.
“I was shocked, I was stunned, I couldn’t believe what had happened to someone so young,” said Chelse Rin, whose son went to school with Gabby.
On Feb. 6, Gabby was playing the choking game, also known as the "pass out game," where a person will stop the flow of oxygen until they pass out.
It's a dangerous game and one from which Gabby never woke up.
“I think it was a tragic accident -- that she thought she was playing a game that was fun, and at that age they don’t think of the outcome, they think of the here and now,” Rin said.
For parents, this vigil was about supporting their children but also a reminder to talk to them, even about the toughest parts of growing up.
“Parents need to wake up and speak to their kids more,” Anthony Hale, whose daughter was friends with Gabby, said.
Because while life is precious, it's also fragile.
“I think every parent should grab their kids and give them a big hug and be glad that they are there,” Hale said.
While none of this occurred on campus, the district sent this letter home to parents:
"Dear Cascade families:
We have some sad news to share with you: yesterday one of our 7th grade students died suddenly. This is very unexpected and shocking for our entire school community
We have had counseling teams in school today, and will continue to provide support at school for as long as needed. Since this is hard for our students to grasp, they may have some difficult questions and thoughts. If your child needs additional help and support, please notify us. For additional resources or help, Clark County has a 24/7 Crisis Line available: (360) 696-9560 or (800) 626-8137.
Working through our emotions is very difficult in times of crisis and tragedy. Each person deals with news like this is in different ways and we want to support our students now, and in the days to come.
Kristin White, Principal
Cascade Middle School"
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses. Gabby's funeral is planned for Feb. 23.
Vancouver police said they are investigating Gabby's death but said they're waiting on the medical examiner's official cause of death before commenting. They said they have not investigated any other incidents involving the choking game.