A local Catholic school student’s surprising half-court shot has achieved viral glory.
Matthew Von Der Ahe is a student at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. A video posted Sept. 14 by Instagram account “HouseOfHighlights,” which features a variety of viral sports highlights, showed Matthew, who has Down syndrome, making a long-distance shot on a basketball court before being immediately mobbed in celebration by a throng of fellow students.
The video has since received more than 1.5 million views and more than 300,000 “likes.”
“What we see in the video is a young man making a half-court shot,” wrote Matthew’s parents, Tom and Emmy Von Der Ahe. “What we know is that Matthew isn’t some phenomenal athlete. What you don’t see in the video is that he tried 11 other times and the students not only let him, they were cheering him on. It seems they wanted it for him just as badly as he wanted it for himself. This is what made the shot so exciting and perhaps why spontaneous joy erupted,” continued his parents. "Matthew is breaking assumptions.”
Matthew was also the subject of an in-studio interview on Access Hollywood, which noted that the video had been shared on social media by celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres as well as Kristen Bell, who sent him a video message of encouragement.
“It was really, really cool how this even happened,” Matthew said in the interview. “It actually made me feel pretty awesome inside me. I realized I had the power to make it...my friends gave me the power!”
Tom and Emmy say they’ve had parents say their children have learned a lot from Matthew. They’ve had administrators say he’s changing the culture of the school. But most importantly, his parents say, they are humbled by the community that surrounds him and are grateful that he's alive at a time when this kind of diversity — and someone like Matthew — can be celebrated.
His parents also pointed out that Matthew is a devoted “self-advocate” who makes and sells art to support his favorite organization, the Club 21 Learning & Resource Center in Pasadena, California.
“We are hopeful the right message about this video clip comes across. It is our hope and vision that Catholic schools across the United States will start to open their doors and hearts to a more diverse population of learners, including those with neuro-differences like Matthew’s. That would be our dream,” they wrote.