The tragedy was, Vanita couldn't afford the $2,000 cost to send her and a chaperone to the event. Vanita's background is heartbreaking, to say the least. Abandoned by her mom at age 2, orphaned by her dad's death in 2007, she lives with her grandparents and money is tight. She uses chess (to which she was introduced by the After Schools Activities Partnership - ASAP) as a way to feel happy when the sadness of her circumstances overwhelm her.
When it looked as if money woes would keep her from the Polgar tournament, Vanita's mentors at ASAP contacted me for help. I wrote Vanita's story and - no surprise, given the legendary generosity of Daily News readers - the money was raised within 24 hours.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady kicked in the $2,000, and other big-hearted Samaritans ponied up more than $1,600. (The extra money went into a new fund to support the very active chess program at Vanita's high school, to help defray costs of tournament fees and travel.)
And this week in Texas, Vanita did not disappoint those who believed in her. She outperformed the girls in her age group and won a $40,000 scholarship to Texas Tech.
Vanita wants very much to attend the school - to study computer science and continue playing chess under the mentorship of Polgar herself.
"We are thrilled," says Maria Walker, ASAP's executive director. "No one is more deserving than Vanita."
But without the kindness of Daily News readers, it's safe to say she never would've gotten on the plane to Texas.
Thanks, one and all. Vanita is on her way.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns: www.philly.com/Ronnie. Read Ronnie's blog at www.philly.com/RonnieBlog.