‘Hard Work and Never Giving Up,’ Making a Dream Happen on the Basketball Court


The boy featured in this story was neither interviewed nor identified for privacy reasons.

This is a story of ups and downs; It’s a story that inspires hope, kindness and hard work. It’s also one that has not ended — not yet.

In 2021, a young boy came into the care of the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division. His father had died of COVID and his mother was unable to care for him. He eventually went to live with his grandmother — who is in the process of gaining guardianship — in the Portland metropolitan area.

Like many kids, this boy was spending a lot of time inside playing video games. As an alternative, the boy’s grandmother encouraged him to try sports.

“His grandmother thought it was too isolating for him to be inside that much,” said Child Welfare & Social Services Specialist Tara Dyrset. “She encouraged him to turn [the TV]off, go outside, play with the basketball. It turned out he really had a natural talent and began to play and enjoy it.”

When he got accepted into an elite basketball league in Portland, however, the boy learned just how expensive playing on an official team would be. Between uniforms, coaches fees, tournament fees, gym rentals and travel expenses, he needed roughly $1,625. The boy and his grandmother then approached Dyrset for financial assistance.

“There was no way our agency could pay for [all]this,” Dyrset said. “But I told him I would try to help.”

Dyrset got to work immediately, approaching the team and a few nonprofits for financial assistance. Contributions from the team ($600), My NeighbOR ($512.50) and Project Lemonade ($400), brought the total cost down to $112.50, which the Department of Human Services could cover.

The aid didn’t stop there, either. One of Dyrset’s co-workers used their personal social media to raise $590 in donations to put towards travel costs, and an anonymous donor also agreed to chip in separately.

Soliciting this much financial aid was definitely a “full-court press,” one might say.

It’s no surprise that Dyrset worked so hard to make this happen. Besides working to ensure a child is safe in their home, caseworkers also work to ensure that the child’s physical, psychological and social well-being needs are met.

“I feel I go to bat for all my kids,” Dyrset said. “I’m passionate about getting opportunities for all of them — and their parents — if it would benefit them. This is a hard job, and I am just so happy people stepped up to help, including my co-worker. [This boy] has big goals, including hopefully going to Duke University, and a basketball scholarship could help him get there. This all feels really good.”

“This case in particular, shows not only our work and level of responsibility, but also the willingness of our community partners to work together towards a common goal,” said ODHS District 1 Manager Tim Cork. “No one group was able to fully sponsor this, but a community of amazing individuals all came together to make this happen. This is why our workers love working in this community, and why we continue to do everything we can to serve our neighbors.”

The boy played his first game April 20 and 21 in Portland.

About Author

Christine Decker is a Public Affairs Specialist for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Before working in communications she was a working journalist.

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