Heart of a Champion

May 3, 2019
CHECKMATE On March 19, Tani was on the Today show. One of the hosts challenged him to a chess match. Tani won in two moves.
NATHAN CONGLETON—NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK/GETTY IMAGES

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, known as Tani, is 8. He fled northern Nigeria with his parents and brother nearly two years ago. They were afraid of terrorist attacks there. When the family arrived in the United States, a church pastor helped place them in a homeless shelter in New York City. Tani’s dad found work selling real estate and driving. Tani’s mom studied to become a home health aide. Tani started going to Primary School 116. There, he learned to play the game that would change his life: chess.

On March 10, Tani won his category at the New York chess championship. He became a state champion for kindergarten through third grade. Tani beat 73 other contestants. Some had practiced with private chess teachers. Tani had practiced on the floor of the homeless shelter.

A reporter from the New York Times wrote an article about Tani. Many people read it. In about three weeks, thousands of people donated more than $250,000 to Tani and his family. The donations were made on the GoFundMe website. People also left messages. “Tani! You are a superstar!” one person wrote.

Selfless Acts

The Adewumi family has decided not to keep the money raised on GoFundMe. They will donate 10% of it to their church. The rest will fund scholarships through a new foundation named after Tani. “People have come to our aid,” Tani’s father, Kayode, told TIME for Kids. “Now we want to help needy people.”

The family did accept a donor’s offer to pay for a year of housing. On March 19, Tani and his family moved out of the homeless shelter. Now they live in an apartment. “My new home is really, really good,” Tani told TFK. “I have pictures and my trophies in my room.”

What’s next? Tani will play chess in the National Elementary Championship. And his family has applied for asylum. If approved, they could become permanent U.S. residents.

Stop & Think! What makes a news story go viral? After the Times wrote about Tani, other organizations did too. And Tani’s GoFundMe page racked up donations. Why?

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