Written by by Deirdre Brauer, CNN
When you’re a prodigy — one who develops so fast you no longer see fit to play at all — the condition is considered a blessing. It can help you avoid boredom, unhappiness and something that can set you back at school: a sleeping pattern.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is, however, fraught with a host of problems. Such is the life of 11-year-old prodigy Tani Adewumi, who resides in his own little club, surrounded by grown-ups for over 11 hours a day, in his home city of Seoul, South Korea.
It all started two years ago, when a Korean doctor diagnosed him with an ailment requiring an immediate anesthetic procedure. The procedure, which took place in a tiny hospital cubicle the size of a bedroom, left his young body feeling “soothed,” according to Adewumi’s grandfather, Bong Kee-hun.
“They had told him there was nothing abnormal about his symptoms at all,” Bong said, adding that Tani was “unusual” when he was younger, though he never had any problems in school.
All of a sudden, he and his parents — all of whom are former teachers — were left to deal with the fact that their beloved boy had two weeks to live. But Tani refused to go.
“He asked ‘why would we remove my memories and friends from the world?’. So he decided to play chess in the hospital,” said Bong.
When Tani Adewumi was diagnosed with a rare disease at 11.
Tani first tried out chess at a local youth club when he was seven, and pretty soon he was winning games with competitors twice his age. When he was 9, Bong took him to another club, which he also played in, to take a test on chess and technology. That’s when his mother found out that he was one of the youngest players in South Korea to take the test.
When Tani was diagnosed with a rare disease in 2018, there were few people he could turn to for help. So his family decided to form a nonprofit organization, called aarsity 10, to support children affected by rare diseases.
“He said, ‘One way or another, if you don’t help me, I will do it on my own,’ ” said Bong. “So he set up a foundation to help other kids.”
The organization, which already has four chapters in South Korea, already plays a pivotal role in the lives of three children in North Korea. All three children — aged 9, 10 and 12 — have symptoms of various rare diseases.
With the help of tenacity and determination, the organization aims to assist at least 30 children affected by rare diseases by 2022.
While Tani admits he misses the friends he left behind in the hospital, he is looking forward to the future. Not only that, but he also hopes to help children in other countries with rare diseases too.
“I want to help the people of Nigeria, India, the Chinese and Arabs,” he says.
And while Tani is taking his next steps in life with a capital “L” and an apostrophe — he has plans for a blockchain company he hopes to launch when he’s 17.