Happy Kids Care's mission is to help kids live happier lives by encouraging them to give back and to volunteer in their community.

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      Greenwich Time

 

     Greenwich Time 2014

Two Brunswick School friends bring chess club to homeless shelter
By Barbara Bind

®

By: Barbara Bind
PUBLICATION: Greenwich Time (CT)

SECTION: Local DATE: December 4, 2014

Tuesday was the first time 6-year-old Britney had ever played chess.
"I was excited! I liked it," said the third-grader, who attends public school in Stamford. "I almost beated three other kids."Britney, who currently lives in the Fairfield County homeless shelter, Inspirica, was playing the board game courtesy of InspiriKing, a chess club started in spring 2012 by Brunswick students Max Konzerowsky and Lucas Korn, who were 8 and 7 years old at the time, respectively.
The club meets several times a month at the Stamford shelter, where the boys teach and play chess with the homeless children.
"I told my mom I wanted to volunteer when I was 8, so she researched and found Inspirica," Max said.
"When Max and Lucas were brainstorming on how they could help the homeless children, they decided on chess because it was a game they both enjoyed and, more importantly, the kids could learn skills that would benefit them when they got older," said Max's mother, Dawn.
Chess was the perfect choice for the boys -- and the kids at the shelter."We both play chess, and we are really good friends," said Lucas.
"This is a really good experience because it makes me happy to make them happy. We figured it would be nice because the kids here have a lot of hardships, and we wanted to make them smile."
The boys have recruited other classmates to help teach chess at the program."It's really good to do. I like passing this on to younger volunteers, so when I'm older they can run it -- like I have a younger brother and he could do it," Max said.
The boys are quick to point out that the benefits of knowing how to play chess extend beyond learning the rules of the game. "Chess has helped me in my schoolwork and in sports," Max said. "For example, when I play hockey, I am always thinking one or two shots ahead. I try to anticipate where the puck may go. You have to have a plan and plan ahead. That's the same with chess.""Chess is a really good sport for the brain," Lucas added.
Britney's sister Katie, 8, said she loves what chess has brought to her life. "My dad sort of started to teach me when I was 7," she said. "Then I came here, learned more and played more with my dad -- and I beat him! He was like, 'Oh, come on. How could you beat me, you're so little!' I told him I learned here and practiced hard." And Katie added, "It's a good feeling. I feel proud and amazed, because one time I was in school, and I didn't know what I was doing with my writing homework -- and that felt terrible. But when I came to chess, it felt good. I will come next time!"The bottom line, though, for everyone involved, is not about winning.
"The kids here have a lot of weight on themselves. It's so hard for them. This gives them time not to be stressed, but to be fun and happy," Lucas said. "Whether or not they win, when they say 'Wow! That was fun!' I say 'Mission accomplished,' and I feel like it did a great job."



Light A Fire 2013



(source for this article)

Light A Fire 2013 cover

At the age of seven, Stamford resident Max Konzerowsky had a problem. He wanted to volunteer, but he couldn't find a charity that would accept a child's help. "Kids my age didn't really have good opportunities for volunteering," explains Max, now nine. Solution? "I decided to start my own charity."

A neighbor helped build a website and HappyKidsCare (HKC) was born, with the mission to "help kids live happier lives by encouraging them to give back and to volunteer in their community." Max is close to his grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer's, so he considered that cause, but a visit to the Inspirica shelter for the homeless in Stamford changed his mind. "We were sitting in the lobby and watching the kids on the playground," recounts Max's mom, Dawn. "He saw kids his age who looked just like him. He had a heavy heart after that and said, ‘I really want to work here Mom.'"

Light A Fire 2013 cover

Now the thirty to forty homeless kids at Inspirica enjoy pizza and dance parties, ice cream socials, trips to Chelsea Piers, and sleepovers -all thanks to Max and the 200 volunteers he has recruited. "Kids are leading reading groups at the shelter; running chess clubs; organizing Thanksgiving dinners for forty families, even rent- ing tablecloths and china to make it more special," says Dawn. When a girl at the shelter yearned to play the violin, HKC found a teen to teach her. When a boy had no one to come watch his football games, Max and his friends went to cheer him on.

Dawn credits the kids at the Brunswick School (where Max attends), Max's hockey teammates, Greenwich Academy students, and many other local schools and friends for making HKC such a success. "Instead of receiving birthday gifts, some of Max's classmates have donated school supplies to Inspirica," says Dawn.

One Inspirica resident, whose anonymity is essential to keeping her safe from abuse, felt compelled to nominate Max despite the risk. "Max plays with all the children at the Youth Center like they are his brothers and sisters. He brings them joy," she says.

Dawn stresses what the volunteers are gaining: "leadership skills, a good work ethic, empathy."

"The kids at Inspirica teach us that we don't need a lot to be happy," says Max, highlighting the most wonderful lesson of all.

In January, HKC and Chelsea Piers CT are teaming up to launch the Get Up. Give Back. Get Fit Challenge, which encourages Fairfield County youth to take social action.


Volunteerism putting on
younger face


Greenwich Time

By Lisa Chamoff,
Staff reporter, Greenwich Time

Max Konzerowsky has been volunteering since he was 2 years old.

Well, courtesy of his parents.

As a toddler, the Stamford resident accompanied his parents, Dawn and Eric Konzerowsky, who volunteered at a soup kitchen in New York City. Recently, the now-8-year-old Max began looking into ways he could volunteer, but couldn't find any opportunities for youngsters his age. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Over the summer, he founded HappyKidsCare, an organization with the goal of connecting young people ages 6 to 12 with volunteer opportunities.

Happy Kids Care press in Greenwich Times

"Most people my age don't have a good chance at volunteering, " said Max, a third-grader at Brunswick School in Greenwich. "I wanted to start it because giving back to the community is good."

Neighbors helped Max write up a business plan and set up a website -- www.happykidscarect.com -- and Facebook page. Over the last few months, he has recruited more than 100 volunteers. The project will officially kick off Friday with a dance party at the Inspirica homeless shelter on Franklin Street in Stamford.

In the coming months, youngsters from around Fairfield County are expected to volunteer at the shelter, playing games with the children who live there. There are also plans to have the young volunteers visit senior residences in the area to play chess -- Max is on the Brunswick chess team -- and other games with residents who have Alzheimer's disease.

Max was inspired to volunteer in part by his relationship with his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's.

In addition, Max's family hosted a 7-year-old boy last summer through the Fresh Air Fund.

Happy Kids Care press in Greenwich Times

Dawn Konzerowsky said though she is helping her son, HappyKidsCare is all Max.

"He sends out the emails to the volunteers," she said.

At the shelter, the volunteers will help plan fun activities for the young residents there, including a karaoke night, ice cream social and game night.

Elaine Osowski, the volunteer program manager for Inspirica, formerly St. Luke's LifeWorks, said young people often volunteer at the shelter, but those who work directly with the children cannot attend Stamford Public Schools because of privacy issues.

"We are always very receptive to outside groups who want to come and offer something that's an enriching experience for the kids," Osowski said.

Recruiting by word of mouth, Max asked his cousins from Fairfield, 9-year-old Montana Osinski and her 7-year-old brother, Cooper, to be among the first volunteers.

"I want to do it because it's a nice thing to do," explained Montana, who attends the Osborn Hill School, part of the Fairfield public school system, as does her brother.

Montana also helped Max raise money for the dance party by setting up a table in front of the CVS in Riverside to collect donations. They have raised hundreds of dollars to pay for the party, which will include a DJ, popcorn machine and face painting.

Their mother, Donna Osinski, said she admires what her young nephew is doing.

"Kids can learn that one person can make a difference in somebody's life," she said.

lisa.chamoff@scni.com; 203-625-4439; twitter.com/lchamoff
©2012 Hearst Connecticut Media Group

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