HARRISBURG, Ore. -- We like to think that life is as fair as gardening. Put in the work -- harvest the bounty. But life isn’t always fair.
It’s not fair that Valentin Alloway was born with special needs; not fair that it’s hard for him to talk as fast as others; not fair that his body cannot keep up with his love of sports.
Ray White pushes back against the unfairness of the world. He’s Vale's special needs teacher.
“I see Vale for three to four hours a day,” says White. “He’s fabulous.”
For four years he's guided Vale, urging him to keep trying.
“I really say stick to it, follow through on something it will make a difference -- just encouraged him to stick it out.”
His parents were there too.
Silvia and Kenny Alloway adopted Vale from an orphanage in Mexico. They’re not sure what led to his mental impairment. They suspect malnutrition as an infant.
But he loves basketball, and they encouraged him to play on the team at his school.
“Every night, when he shows his frustration, I just talk to him and tell him to be grateful that he is part of the team,” says Silvia Alloway.
Over the last four years, Vale has mostly ridden the bench for the second JV team at Harrisburg High school.
He comes to practice and he participates, but he doesn’t get in the JV games too often. His skills are simply were not at the level of his teammates.
And in a world that isn’t always fair, that would be that.
But Vale’s coach Terry Crabb decided to do something about that.
“What I said is, ‘Vale, you’re not dressing for the JV 2 against Toledo … you’re dressing varsity. The whole team just embraced it,” Crabb said.
The game was Saturday night at Harrisburg High School -- senior night.
“We as a team felt like he needed to get into the game,” said player Tysen Buhler, “especially on senior night.”
“It was just amazing," remembers another player, Nate Theisfeld. “It was so loud.”
With three minutes to go and Harrisburg ahead of Toledo by 31 points, the two coaches talked.
“I have a special needs young man. He's a senior. I want to get him into the game and I was wondering could we get some shots for him?” Crabb asked.
Toledo's coach agreed.
Suddenly the game became about a lot more than basketball. Vale's mom watched from the stands.
“I was getting anxious ... it was very exciting.”
Ray White was there too, shooting video on his phone.
“Right when Vale went in, you could see the crowd was excited, because it hadn’t happened you know?”
And then Vale’s moment arrived.
Vale hit the very first shot he ever took in a varsity basketball game -- a three-pointer no less.
Players and fans went wild.
For one moment, on one night, life felt a little more fair, a little more hopeful, and not just for Vale Alloway.