Fundraiser memorializes chess champ

Kids take part in games at the 12th Annual Sean's fund Dinner & Auction. courtesy photo.
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Every year for the past 12 years the number of people has grown to remember a young Valencia chess champion struck down by leukemia and contribute to a program to bring magnetic chess boards to young hospitalized cancer patients.

More than 150 adults and more than 50 kids attended the 12th annual Sean’s Fund Dinner & Auction on Saturday at the Trinity Classical Academy in Valencia.

“Everyone had such a good time,” said organizer Angie Nelson who wanted to help with the event after seeing her 6-year-old son Cole fall in love with chess.

For each of the previous 11 years, Jay Stallings, director of the Valencia-based nonprofit California Youth Chess League, has organized and hosted the annual dinner and auction.

Stallings said Monday: “The kids had a ton of fun, the parents were all smiling, and I couldn’t be happier with the amount of support and love we felt from our community.”

“I was so impressed with the (league) coaches, I asked Jay, ‘How can I help?,’” Nelson said.

This year’s event featured an obstacle course, a chess “carnival” and a ball pit dive for “soft, squishy chess pieces,” she said.

“We were ecstatic to see that we have more people this year, than any other year,” she said.

This year’s attendees were treated to a short movie produced by Eagle Scout Jack Hoppe as an Eagle Scout project, titled: “Inspiration and Hope – Sean’s Story.”  It was met with a standing ovation and “many tears.”

Money raised at the fundraiser was earmarked for chess scholarships and to buy magnetic chess boards for young cancer patients in hospitals, organizers said.

Sean Reader attended first grade at Meadows Elementary School and was excited at the chance to join the chess team there. Three years later, he won the title of Southern California State Third Grade Champion.

And, he didn’t stop there.

In 2005, he became the Western States Sixth Grade Champion – ranked in the national Top 100 and ranked in the Top Three of Southern California chess players his age.

Just days after being diagnosed with leukemia, Reader boarded a plane with his team heading to the 2005 SuperNationals in Nashville, Tennessee.

There, he put his illness out of his mind and played the best chess of his life, according to Stallings.

He finished with five wins and only two losses against the best elementary school players in the United States, leading his team to a tie for second place.

“Sean helped us realize that the time to be brave was when the odds were stacked against you,” Stallings said in 2014.

He was 12 years old when he died Aug. 14, 2006.


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