On Chess: St. Louis players raise money for ALS research

Sep 23, 2015

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis held its annual ALS Benefit Tournament last weekend to commemorate the life of Waldo Odak, a well-known member of the Chess Club. The entry fee and donations went to the St. Louis Regional Chapter of the ALS Association to support research and assist those afflicted with the neurological disease. The 19-player tournament raised an additional $390 toward ALS research.

Round 1 was prefaced with a passionate speech from Darlene Bee, a board member of the local ALS chapter. She said she was confident that we will one day find a cure for the disease and expressed a lot of gratitude for the impact the Chess Club has made in supporting those suffering from ALS. “It helps a lot,” Bee said. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis “has really been a great addition to the neighborhood.”

Since 2011, the Chess Club has raised more than $6,500 for ALS research. Sarah Henke, development coordinator of the regional chapter, said how “grateful” her group ”is for the impact the Chess Club has made in supporting those suffering for ALS.” Henke also explained the neurological disease that robs people of the ability to move their limbs and eventually causes them to not be able to speak, swallow or breathe.

A portion of all of the funds received locally go directly to providing patients with walkers, bath assists, ramps, nutritional supplements and other basic needs. These are just a few of the 20 services the ALS Association provides free of charge to patients. The organization also offers spiritual and general counseling for patients, caregivers and their children.

Waldo Odak was one of the strongest chess players in St. Louis in the 1990s. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and died the same year, but his memory lives on for the influence he has had on local chess culture.

Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club, expressed his condolences for the passing of Odak, “The St. Louis chess community is like a family. While we lost one of our own, hopefully events like these can help raise awareness and one day lead to a cure for this debilitating disease.”

If you are interested in learning more about the ALS Association of St. Louis, please visit its website.

Jonathan Schrantz is a chess instructor in the St. Louis area and an employee at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. He is an experienced tournament player and enjoys teaching chess in local schools.