ALBANY PARK — Joseph Ocol had an excuse for losing a chess match to 12-year-old Mary Joy Tuboro.
Mary Joy, who was born without arms, was moving the pieces with her feet.
"It was a legitimate win, because to be honest with you, I never in my life had played against someone using her foot to pick up the chess pieces," said Ocol, an Albany Park resident and math teacher at Marshall Metropolitan High School in East Garfield Park. "Honestly, I just got so overwhelmed playing against this amazing person that I made a blunder in the game, and I had to resign.
"Call it whatever, but I just was overwhelmed by the fact that I was playing against someone who had so much zest in life and who did not think for a moment that she was less of a person than anybody else," added Ocol, who founded a chess program at Marshall and next-door Faraday Elementary School in 2006.
Joseph Ocol insisted to Justin Breen that he did not lose to 12-year-old Mary Joy Tuboro on purpose:
Ocol competed against Mary Joy on Catanduanes, an island in the Philippines where he runs a nonprofit school — the Catanduanes Institute of Technology Foundation — founded by his parents. He met Mary Joy, whose father, Elpidio, worked at the school, two years ago. He's been communicating with her since, either during his once-a-year visit overseas or via computer, which Mary Joy can navigate quite easily with her toes.
"We are proud to say my daughter can perform a lot of activities using her feet, like eating food, writing, playing chess, brushing her hair, brushing her teeth, using cellphone and texting her brothers and sister including applying the different features of the computer," Elpidio Tuboro said via email. "She can also arrange books in her bag, can run and can do errands for the family."
Added Ocol: "She wants to show to the world that even without arms she can still manage to do things that any person with arms can do. She exudes self-confidence instead of self-pity. She shows a smile instead of a frown in her face."
So impressed was Ocol with Mary Joy that he set up the Gaudy and Joy Charitable Foundation to raise $25,000 to purchase prosthetic arms for the 12-year-old. The funds also will pay for airfare to the United States, where Ocol said he'd like to have the medical support, plus food and accommodations.
He also wants Mary Joy's chess skills to be on display in America.
"I hope she can be given a chance to inspire others," Ocol said.
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