Everyone loves a good underdog story, the champion from an unlikely background rises above the competition and wins it all. These days we all need someone to root for which is why we were so in love with the story of one 8-year-old refugee chess champion who won a lot more than just a trophy.
The story of Nigerian refugee Tanitoluwa Adewumi went viral earlier this month after the 8-year-old won the New York State chess championship for his age bracket.
Tanitoluwa who goes by Tani placed first in the New York Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade.
“It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” Russell Makofsky, who oversees Manhattan’s P.S. 116 chess program, told USA TODAY.
School chess coach Shawn Martinez saw potential in Tani right away and insisted the young boy join the school chess program. He even offered to wave any fees so that Tani’s financial situation wouldn’t be an issue.
“He works very hard at his game,” Martinez said. He estimates that Tani could achieve master status “in the next year or two.”
“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” Tani told the New York Times.
Tani and his family haven’t had an easy life. In 2017, the Adewumis fled religious persecution in Nigeria and came to the U.S. to start anew. Sadly, the family has been living in and out of homeless shelters for the past two years.
After Tani’s remarkable win, Russell Makofsky set up a GoFundMe for Tani and his family in hopes of raising enough money to cover housing and other basic needs.
“My hope is that he’ll be in a home tonight,” Makofsky said.
The fundraiser’s goal was set at $50,000 and donations have more than quadrupled that number, raising roughly $246,000 so far.
Tani’s father Kayode thanked those who donated in a grateful message: “To whom much is given, much is required. We need a home, he gave us, our needs for Legal assistance, for Job, Living all has been met. So we take our blessing and give them back to God and to the World.”
An anonymous donor even offered topay a year’s rent on a two bedroom apartment for the Adewumi family. Now, Tani finally has a permanent home.
The family has also decided to use some of the money to start a foundation in Tani’s name to help others in need.