The news these days is often depressing at worst and frustrating at best. It’s easy to get caught up in the spin cycle and let it get us down. Never fear… The News Blender has you covered. Once a week, we feature Something Good and, in return, all you have to do is tell us something good that has happened to you this week, something you are thankful for, a joke, a cute animal story, an inspiring tale of heroics, a Random Act of Kindness… SOMETHING good.
This week’s Something Good is a feel good story that will warm your heart and has the makings of a great movie – a hardworking underdog, a family down on their luck, perseverance, sudden fame, the kindness of strangers, gratitude, and paying it forward.
Tanitoluwa Adewumi, better known to the world as “Tani”, is an eight year-old third grader who took the New York Chess Championship for his age group- kindergarten through third grade, the New York Times tells us.
Tani’s story was particularly poignant from the outset – his family, Christians from Nigeria who fled fearing for their lives from Boko Haram terrorists, claimed asylum in the US and settled in New York City just over a year ago. Their pastor helped them find a place in a homeless shelter and Tani attended a public school. It was there at PS 116 that Tani was introduced to chess. His abilities grew rapidly and the homeless chess novice defeated opponents from the best private schools who had been competing in tournaments for years.
In spite of their struggles, Tani’s mom, Oluwatoyin, encouraged him in his new love of chess and made sure he attended every chess club practice. His dad, Kayode, works hard at two jobs as his family settles in to life in America.
After this quintessential American dream tale was delivered on the morning shows and in newspapers, bringing a smile to everyone who was touched by it, the story didn’t end there. A GoFundMe was started on the family’s behalf and generous people offered the family a hand up.
The GoFundMe quickly raised over $200,000. There are offers to make Tani’s story into a movie. Immigration lawyers are offering assistance, pro bono, to the refugees. Tani was offered full scholarships at elite private schools. A variety of housing options were offered by donors. Mr. Adewumis, who drives Uber as a second job, was offered a free car which will enable him to make more money driving. Mrs. Adewumis was offered a job as a health care aid. Tani even was offered a chance to meet Bill Clinton.
The Adewumis have taken their new found opportunities in stride. Tani will continue at PS 116, his parents say, returning the confidence the school showed in Tani by waiving chess club fees. They will consider a scholarship for middle school. They have eschewed offers of palatial housing and gratefully accepted a year’s rent for a clean and modest two-bedroom apartment near Tani’s school. Donors offered furniture and basic household needs. And chess books. 100 of them.
Tani, in awe of his new home, told the Times that he wants his mom’s cooking again. Tani’s dad, Kayode, said, “I think I am still dreaming. I hope I don’t wake up.”
As for the $200,000 from the GoFundMe, the Adewumis, who were homeless barely a week ago, have decided that, beyond a tithe for their church, they will not touch the money for themselves. Instead, they will put the money into the Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation, which will aid African immigrants struggling in their new country. Mr. Adewumis said, “Anybody who is coming from Africa who is in the position we were in, we will help them.”
Tani, who told the Times he wants to be the youngest grandmaster, says he doesn’t mind not having that money for himself. “I want to help other kids. I don’t mind,” he said. Tani clearly has absorbed his mindset from his father, who told New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, “God has already blessed me. I want to release my blessing to others.”
The current youngest grandmaster, who took the title of youngest grandmaster at age 22 in 1985, joins the rest of the world in cheering Tani on. Garry Kasparov praised assertive chess mothers, including his own, while wishing Tani success in a column he penned for the Washington Post.
A victorious underdog who escaped terror by coming to America, a hand up for a hardworking family in need, and a grateful family paying it forward to others struggling as they have struggled is certainly Something Good to start the new week thinking about.
Now it’s your turn… Tell me Something Good!