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Saturday, July 24, 2010 - Broomfield Enterprise  - "Green idea checks in as Ryan Elementary"
Article features John Cardie, "Mr. Checkers" and his continuous effort to promote checkers in the Elementary schools. Cardie thinks the game is a tool for teaching life lessons and for creating a bond between generations. Going green with checkers is just another one of his ideas to keep teaching checkers and the phrase of the day!    

Green idea checks in at Ryan Elementary

Broomfield resident Cardie keeps games going with recycled cans for playing

By Terri Chance For the Enterprise
Posted: 07/24/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

Going green is the phrase of the day. It makes sense to devise ways to reuse and recycle products. Any products.

How about recycled checkers?

John Cardie, "Mr. Checkers" as he`s known in some circles, has been encouraging checkers playing for years, and he is succeeding. He has even written a book, "How to Beat Granddad at Checkers." Now he`s joining the movement to go green.

A pet project of Cardie`s is keeping checkerboards and checkers stocked at the playground and park at Ryan Elementary School, off of 115th Avenue near the Greenway Park neighborhood. The boards are permanent, the checkers, however, are not, and often disappear. Cardie likes to visit the playground and restock the checkers, often anonymously and never asking for recognition.

Cardie used to make the checkers at the woodshop at the Broomfield Senior Center, and hand painted them the traditional red and black. These days, he doesn`t get to the wood shop as often, so he came up with another idea. A green idea.

Visitors to the playground will now find checkers made from used aluminum cans.

"After I quit making wood checkers, I bought poker chips and left them at the playground in plastic bags," Cardie said. "But the bags kept blowing away."

Not intending to litter, Cardie had to try something else. One day, while crushing an empty soda can, he noticed he could get the cans squashed into fairly small packages.

"They`re just the right size for the checkerboards (at the school)," he said.

The crushed cans are dipped in paint and checkers are made.

The checkerboards, which have been at the school for about 15 years, are there for the kids, but also for their grandparents, Cardie said.

It`s a great way for a youngster to bond with granddad, but playing checkers is so much more, he said. Cardie has a passion for teaching children the game of checkers. He believes the game will help them think ahead before they make a move.

"Checkers is like life," Cardie said. "It`s the same life decisions we have to make every day. Do I go to the left or to the right? There are consequences. If you go the wrong way, you get jumped."

Cardie`s son, Heath, 38, a father of four boys, said he learned a lot from his dad as he was growing up. His dad loved games, but only those that required forethought.

"He never liked games of chance," Heath Cardie said. "He prefers games that require thinking."

Cardie`s four grandsons, Colton, 12, Conrad, 10, Calvin, 8, and Caden, 7, all spend a great deal of time with their granddad. Conrad said he`s learned to play chess as well as checkers thanks to Cardie.

"He`s OK with me jumping him in checkers, "Conrad said, "because he`s happy for me when I`m winning."

In addition to maintaining the checkerboards at Ryan Elementary, Cardie travels, encouraging the young and old alike to play checkers. He often is a guest teacher, hosting checkers seminars, lectures and games aboard cruise ships. He just returned from a weeklong church camp in Big Bear, Calif., where he volunteered his time teaching boys ages 8 to 12 the game and the value of checkers, along with, what he calls "brain bender," or logic, games. Cardie sends all of the proceeds from the sale of his book to the American Checkers Federation youth program.

"The purpose of teaching these kids to play checkers is to get them to sit down with grandpa," Cardie said.

Once a child is having a conversation with his granddad over a game of checkers, they will learn valuable life lessons, he said. Cardie refers to it as a board meeting.

"A child will listen to grandpa more than his own parents. That`s why I wrote the book, to develop that bond," he said.

Cardie said kids can do anything or become anyone when they play checkers. No matter how young, old, rich or poor, when someone plays checkers, he can become a king.

"It`s not like chess," he said. "In chess, no one becomes king. Everyone has to die."

Cardie plays checkers with his grandsons giving them a nickel every time they jump him. But it`s a life lesson. If the kids make a wrong move, Cardie won`t let them take it back.

"You have to teach them at a young age to be responsible for their actions," he said.

Cardie retired as a chemist from DuPont 15 years ago and moved from New Jersey to Colorado with his wife, Lee. His father was an avid checkers player, and Cardie said when he and Lee were raising their two children, Heath and Heather, he understood his father`s love of the game. It encouraged his kids to sit down and concentrate. After retirement, he found the time to spread the word about checkers.

Heath Cardie said his father doesn`t spend as much time with other typical retirement activities, such as golf or fishing, as he does hanging out with his grandchildren.

"He sees a lot of purpose and value in it," Heath Cardie said. "These are jewels he can pass on to the boys."

John Cardie estimates he has provided hundreds of checkers for the boards at the Ryan Elementary playground and park, and he intends to continue to make more. Unlike the wood checkers he used to make, the aluminum models are hard to destroy.

"They stay around a lot longer and they`re not damaged by the weather," Cardie said. "But the kids still toss them around. I usually find them buried in the sand."

But if they disappear, there`s no need to give up the game. He`ll make more.

John Cardie's website