Kori Delapeña is an advocate who has spent the last four years working with the Texas Legislature to pass Cati’s Act in memory of her six-year-old daughter who died in 2019. Her dedication resulted in House Bill 59 being signed into law by Governor Abbott in June 2023, helping prevent thousands of children from drowning and saving their parent’s hearts.
Kori was born in South Texas and grew up in a family of four daughters. Kori’s father was a welder on oil rigs in the ocean, so their family moved up and down the Texas Coast before settling in Corpus Christi. Her father encouraged her independence and taught her to advocate for herself. These traits were also strengthened by Kori’s first role model, her middle school teacher, Mrs. Cruz. Despite having a physical disability, Mrs. Cruz was dedicated to making sure all of her students were able to make the most out of the resources and programs available to them. She saw Kori’s potential and helped her enroll in the advanced programs and fulfill her academic potential.
Kori studied journalism and communications at Del Mar College and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. During this time, she wrote for the local newspaper to get hands-on experience. Before her first day covering City Council, Kori remembers her professor, Mr. Flores, quipping, “Do you have your cowboy boots on? We have a lot of shit to walk through.” Although he was making a joke, it was effective at explaining the hardship of politics and the determination needed to work in the industry. During the next 22 years, Kori worked in media, real estate, and education administration, and she also became a mom.
In 2019, Kori was spurred into politics after her youngest daughter, Cati, drowned under the care of a summer camp she was attending. Kori realized that although she had done everything she could have as a mother, the camp’s negligence and non-adherence to putting a life jacket on Cati as Kori had instructed multiple times had resulted in tragedy. She knew this was wrong, and she needed to do something to prevent this incident from repeating itself. She wanted to protect children’s lives. Kori and her husband, John, started advocating in the Texas Legislature for changes to water safety laws and started Live Like Cati, a water safety non-profit, to educate and support summer camps in Texas in hopes of preventing future child drowning deaths.
When Kori started, everyone told her that the process of getting legislation passed would take at least three to four sessions. Just two sessions after she began her advocacy, Kori’s hard work and determination paid off. House Bill 59 was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on June 2nd and will go into effect on September 1st. This bill will require camps and childcare facilities to have written confirmation of a child’s swimming ability and will require all children who cannot swim to wear an approved U.S. Coast Guard-certified life jacket before entering the gates of a pool. Additionally, Live Like Cati has grown into a far-reaching nonprofit with its trainings providing immediate water safety education to childcare staff across Texas and has a life jacket distribution program that provides free life jackets for non-swimmers.
Kori’s best advice for anyone who sees a problem in their community is “Don’t just talk about it—do it.” She knows it can be so easy to complain about issues, but if you don’t do something about it, you’ll always be complaining. Kori considers her advocacy in politics to be her greatest accomplishment. “I have no political background, no lobbyist background. I’m just a mom who saw something wrong and decided to do what’s right and advocate for it,” said Kori. She hopes her advocacy in Texas will inspire others, especially other moms, to get involved in politics.