Category Archives: Inspirational Kids

GiGi’s 24 Hour Run for Inclusive Play at Playground Adventures

A passionate donor of PlayGrand Adventures, as well as a local Rotarian, will run for 24 hours beginning this Friday, March 4 at 6 p.m. in an effort to bring awareness to PlayGrand Adventures at EpicCentral and how it creates opportunities for everyone to play, to grow, and to connect… all together!

Who is Gigi?

Abigail, nicknamed Gigi, was born at 3 a.m. on March 9, 2005. Her father was out of town and got the first call at about 2 a.m. telling him that his wife, Vickey, was having a miscarriage at just 23 weeks into her pregnancy. When Vickey arrived at the hospital, the doctors examined her and discovered two things: Gigi was still alive, albeit barely, and time was of the essence. Vickey had a placental abruption where the placenta separates from the uterine wall. She was hemorrhaging and Gigi was not getting any oxygen. After an emergency c-section, the doctors resuscitated their little girl and got her heart beating again and breathing again with the help of a respirator.

Baby Abigail weighed in at 1lb 7oz and was 11 inches long. Her dad’s wedding ring could go all the way to her elbow. For the next four months, Gigi would fight for her life. Today, Gigi is just days away from celebrating her 17th birthday but also battles with the many challenges of Cerebral Palsy which she was diagnosed with in 2007. Benefiting greatly from inclusive and adaptive opportunities like PlayGrand Adventures, Gigi and her family, who are also close friends with the runner, are honored to have this inaugural event named after her and to help raise awareness for a life-changing playground project like this.

Can I run? How can I support?

The runner says, “I’m running for those that can’t so that they can get out and play more!”  You can show your support for this mission and for the playground project by making a tax-deductible donation.

This inaugural run isn’t about signing up, getting a t-shirt, and a medal. This is simply to raise awareness and funds to expand PlayGrand Adventures to ultimately serve more people like Gigi. That said, some people want to come out and support with their feet. So, while this is not an organized race whatsoever, we do welcome you to make your way to PlayGrand Adventures and join the runner for a lap or more. We ask that you complete an online form below so that we can look out for you and welcome you when you arrive. Don’t forget to bring your own water and snacks as there will be nothing provided.

About PlayGrand Adventures & PlayGrand Adventures Foundation

PlayGrand Adventures provides a safe and fun playground experience of epic proportions for all ages and abilities. The playground includes adventure areas that are designed to stimulate, challenge, and encourage the development of several skill sets while providing social interaction, a sense of discovery, creativity, and exercise. The playground is part of a much larger overall park project which includes The Epic, a state-of-the-art recreation center, Epic Waters indoor/outdoor water park, trail systems, The Summit 50+ Club, and amphitheater at EpicCentral in Grand Prairie, Texas. 

Currently under construction are two connecting hotels, a convention center, six restaurant spaces, parking garages, a water/light show on the lake, and an indoor adventure park. PlayGrand Adventures Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity with a goal of promoting the playground and raising the funds necessary to complete the construction of the full 10-acre development as well as for the ongoing maintenance.

More information about this event, the playground, and the foundation at

House of Shine Features Kid Entrepreneurs and a Holiday Craft Fair in the Christmas Capital of Texas

Photo Courtesy of House of Shine

House of Shine, a nonprofit, interactive museum dedicated to the study of self, is hosting a Holiday Craft Fair featuring young entrepreneurs on Saturday, November 13 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 334 S. Barton St. More than 30 students ages 8 to 18 will showcase their talents in painting, jewelry, pottery, photography, textile crafts, and much more.

Each student is mentored through the creation and promotion process by a local entrepreneur. 10% of each participant’s proceeds will go to a charity of their choice. Holiday music will be played and sung by local students in the House of Shine backyard.

Additionally, House of Shine is bringing joy all season long through their Santa’s Mailbox. Stop by the House of Shine to send a letter to Santa in their unique Santa Mailbox. Letters will be accepted Wednesday, December 1 – Monday, December 20. Volunteers from the Grapevine community will be helping Santa respond to the letters.

They are also hosting the Christmas-focused “Shineworks” experience, a DIY meets random act of kindness activity. Using everyday household items, participants become Santa’s elves working in Santa’s workshop and create one-of-a-kind holiday-themed crafts. They leave ready to share it with a deserving person in the community. November 23, December 7, and 21 from 3:34 to 4:45 p.m.


House of Shine is a nonprofit, interactive museum dedicated to the study of you. Our mission is to grow confident and self-aware leaders, ages 5 to 95, to make meaningful contributions in their corner of the world. We believe that inside every person is a unique set of talents and gifts that are just waiting to be discovered. Whether you are five or 95, our interactive museum, K-12 curriculum, and self-discovery programs will help you unearth your SHINE – uncovering who you are and how you can make a positive impact on the world. For more information, please visit To see our program schedule, please visit

Chess championship tournament features one female player

Neha Sharan receives her cash prize from Dallas Chess Secretary Barbara Swafford as Tournament Director Luis Salinas looks on

The 86th Annual Southwest Open Chess Championship, sanctioned by the Texas Chess Association (TCA) and hosted by the Dallas Chess Club (DCC), was held at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Irving from September 4 to September 7.

The tournament was broken down into Open, Reserve, Novice and Scholastic Sections for chess enthusiasts from grades K-12. COVID-19 protocols were being used, as no one was allowed in the building, the practice or the active rooms without a mask.

Sharangopi Jayaraj of Plano, who is the father of the only female player in the tournament, said of his daughter, 11 year-old Neha Sharan, that, “She’s been playing about three years. She got interested in chess and we took her to a tournament in second or third grade. She won fourth place, so I thought I thought she might be a natural in chess.

“She goes to Rice Middle School. Right now, she is ranked 25th in her class in the U.S., so I think that she will keep going. She likes that I like it and that we are supporting her wherever she goes. She’s in the Reserve Category, which I think is 1400 to 1800. She’s [ranked] 1453,” said Jayaraj.

“I just wanted to say a few words about why we think that running this event is safe,” said Tom Crane, President of the Texas Chess Association (TCA). “Number one, as you see by the pictures, everyone is wearing a mask. Number two, no one is touching each other. We’re using common sense. We have a large jug of hand sanitizer for anybody [to use]. We have a disinfectant spray that we spray the pieces with at the end of each round.

These protocols worked well in the last tournament that TCA was able to hold, back in July.

At the end of the tournament, the winners were: Justin Joseph Sarkar from New York (first place in the Open Category); Shaun Graham from Oklahoma (first place in the Reserve Category); and Derek Hoover from Richardson (first place in the Novice Category).

Chess inspires 17-year-old student to help others locally and internationally: PART 2

17 year old Anirudh Ganesh talks about giving back. Read the first part of his story HERE.

“I also want to give a fair share of giving back,” said Anirudh. “I have pretty good experience coaching and teaching Novice players because I teach my brother. So, I thought I would start these camps, starting out with my local area here in Dallas. I got many kids from different schools to come to the camps. At first, I charged a fee and donated the proceeds to a charity foundation.

“Then I thought that if I really wanted to branch out to other places, I needed to do it for free,” Anirudh said. “I wanted to target third world countries where they don’t have access to these kinds of things as much. So, I started my AG Chess Academy.”

“I basically got a sponsor from a corporation called Voice Snap. They are a technology company focusing on voice-based products and solutions for enterprises and K-12 schools.They helped me build this [Chess Academy] and they also helped me bring in kids from third world countries because their product is aligned with schools and these kinds of places. I got a lot of kids primarily from Tanzania and Uganda. I had about 50 kids who came to my free online sessions.

“I use ChessBase to teach these kids. I have material ready before each class. I go through the basic concepts, and I split it into two sections, where I have ‘beginner beginners,’ which are the kids that don’t know how to play. Then I have Novice students, who have a basic understanding of the game, but need help getting to the next level,” Anirudh explained.

“I think it’s much more difficult to be a coach [rather than a student]. As a student, I’d just be listening to the coach telling me everything. But as the instructor, I have to be ready throughout the entire thing. I have to prepare for the sessions, and it’s a little more effort required for instructing,” Anirudh said.

“Honestly, I feel like it’s easier to teach in person over the board. Online is a little bit harder, but there’s a lot of great software available. It’s not too bad because in this day and age, many kids are actually playing more online than playing in person because there are so many Chess websites like and A lot of these websites allow kids to play with other people just with a click of a button. I’m sure they’re used to seeing the Chessboard on the screen, so it’s not too difficult for kids to understand what’s on the screen. For me, I find it much more fun and engaging to do it over the board,” said Anirudh.

But wait! There’s more that this extraordinary young man has accomplished.

“I also direct tournaments. I passed the certification exam for local TD [Tournament Director] status, so I can officially conduct any tournaments here. There are 2 types of TDs: One type does all the work on the back end [using the computer to match players] and then you have your Floor TDs who make sure everything is running smoothly, there’s no cheating going on and if there are any problems or issues, they’ll fix it.

“I’ve done both, actually – walking around the floor and working the back-end. Last summer, I conducted my own tournaments. It was called, ‘High Rated Tuesdays,’ where if you’re above a certain rating, you can play in this tournament. I was doing all of the pairings and organization,” Anirudh explained.

“There are other certifications I can pass [state and national, for example] so I definitely will want to try that soon. I’ll continue tournament directing and continue playing Chess tournaments competitively and try to get a few Chess titles as well,” Anirudh said.

With so many accomplishments under his belt, he now has to decide what to do after graduation.

“I’m actually applying to colleges right now,” Anirudh said. “I also want to continue my Chess activities in college, and if they don’t have a Chess Club already present, I’ll found one. There wasn’t a really strong Chess Club at my high school, so I started a new one and got 50 – 60 members, and it’s running very well. I already have a plan for my legacy [after graduation] because I have the contacts for the years coming up, so I’ve decided on some sort of hierarchy where people who are experienced in the Chess field can take over once I’m gone.

“I’m applying to colleges in state and out of state. I’m still trying to figure all that out. There aren’t that many scholarship opportunities in Chess, but once I get into these applications, I’ll be figuring out what’s going on there. There are some colleges that offer really good scholarships because they are heavily invested in Chess, such as Webster and UT-D. They offer these scholarships so they can have proper players playing on their Chess team for intercollege tournaments,” Anirudh clarified.

Whichever college Anirudh chooses will have a fantastic addition to their Chess Clubs. Or if they don’t have one, he will make sure one gets established. Best of luck, Anirudh!