Only on 13 News - Thankful in Lena - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Only on 13 News - Thankful in Lena

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LENA (WREX) -

Athlete of the Week Rahveon Valentine and Lena-Winslow football are one win away from a state championship. For the senior running back, it would be another moment in a lifetime of many that he'll cherish with a family built on a special foundation.

A trip to state, sealed with a hug. One for Mom, one for Dad. There's a story behind those hugs.

"They went out of their way to bring all of us brothers together," says Rahveon Valentine.

Dan and Teresa Brown are Rahveon's legal guardians. They've fostered him, and 13 other kids for more than a decade.

"We kept adding and adding and they seemed to stay here. That's what God wanted us to do, so here we are," says Dan.

Today, Rahveon and his three biological brothers live together under one roof. They're not alone. Bobby was adopted by Dan and Teresa. He arrived at age eight.

"Like I asked the lady, are we still in Rockford or Chicago? We're in Lena, I don't even know where that is," says Bobby.

Rahveon, Rahmareon, Ronnell, and Rahkeem had their own difficult journey, one without the presence of their dad.

"He's out of my life for a reason. He's not a good guy, so that's why I don't want to meet him," says Ronnell.

Getting to know their birth mother took time.

"One of the kids on a visit asked her, who she was one time, which made my heart break," says Teresa.

Upon arrival, they had to learn house rules, sometimes the hard way.

"Timeout for like 20 minutes and for a kid that seems like 30 hours," Bobby recalls. "Their strict is a different strict from other people."

The brothers also learned from each other.

"You set a goal and it's fixed and you stay on it. No excuses, no easy ways out," says Rahkeem.

They've taken that wisdom to heart.

"I just learned not to follow people, just do my own thing," Rahmareon said, nodding to Rahveon. "Looking up to him, seeing what he does, and try to be better than what he does."

He has a long way to go to match his older brother, who's brought Lena to its feet on the football field for four years, and with his brothers, welcomed into the community's arms.

"It takes a village to raise a child, and this village has raised these kids."

From the time they arrived at the Brown house, they've been raised by mother Teresa. She shrugs off the comparison.

"I'm not as calm as she is all the time."

She and Dan have filled their house with love, and during the holiday season, there's a lot of gratitude to go around.

"A lot of people don't get the opportunity to live in a house like this or any other place," Rahveon said.

"I could be in a worse home than I am now so I feel like I am blessed to be here," said Ronnell.

Dan and Teresa hope their work doesn't stop at their doorstep.

"We just hope and pray that there's other people out there that can help other kids out, just need a little bit of a chance," said Dan.

Teresa added, "If you're a person who loves kids, I definitely encourage you to do foster care because these kids need your love, and your help."

That unconditional love, not bound by blood, but by benevolence, will fill their Thanksgiving table. Then they'll fill the stands on Friday to watch Lena-Winslow go for gold, hoping to seal a win at state with one more hug.

The Panthers kick off on Friday at 10:00 am against Tuscola in the 1-A state championship game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

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