When 13-year-old Bradley Schlesinger wanted to make a difference in his community, he looked no further than one of his favorite pastimes, playing chess. Bradley was seeking a service learning project in conjunction with his bar mitzvah. He decided he would share his love of chess with military personnel stationed overseas, and Operation Chess was born.
It functions as a nonprofit organization that sends chess sets to American troops. To date, 36 chess sets have traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, as well as Bethesda Naval Hospital. For every $20 in donations, Operation Chess sends two complete chess sets to those who have requested them.
The package includes a letter from the person who provides the donation. This has lifted the spirits of the troops who have received the chess sets. Some have even written back to share how much the gift meant to them. “It must be pretty hard to be away from your family,” Bradley says. “I’m happy to be helping out any way I can.”
The Schlesingers were especially touched to hear from a sergeant in Iraq. “Chess is the only game I allow my soldiers to play at work,” he says. “I feel it keeps their minds sharp.” Chess is a game of strategy, Bradley says, but it has deeper implications. “How you play chess reflects how you approach life,” he says.
The effort has been a family affair. Bradley’s mom, Diane, fills out the lengthy customs forms for each box. His sister, Katie, collected 850 Beanie Babies to fill the boxes. The soldiers hand the Beanie Babies out to local children.
“It’s great the kids want to give back to the community,” Diane Schlesinger says. She initially thought the donations would come from adults, but she says she has been pleasantly surprised that many of the donations have come from children.
Send donations to Operation Chess, 6817 W. Brown Deer Road, Suite 120, Milwaukee 53223. Please include a personal letter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or www.OperationChess.org for more information.
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