From the inspiring stories to the remarkable collection of apparel, footwear and accessories, this year’s Nike Doernbecher collection continues to impact the world.
15 years ago, former Nike creative director Michael Doherty followed through on a vision from his son, Connor: what if Doernbecher patients could design their own Nike shoes, working alongside Nike designers and developer teams, and then donate the proceeds to the hospital?
The evolution of that idea – what is now Doernbecher Freestyle, wherein each year, six hospital patients design a Nike silhouette and apparel – has raised nearly $20 million for Doernbecher, contributing to new treatments and better care for kids by advancing medical research and supporting the work of pediatric specialists. It’s also earned a devoted following in the sneaker community.
The biggest impact of Freestyle, though, can’t be measured in dollar signs or by a stethoscope: it brings back hope for the kids, and instills a sense of creative control when agency over their own lives can feel lost.
Meet The Freestyle Designers
Chloe Swientek, 10, Portland, Oregon
Patient designer Chloe Swientek, a 10-year-old from Portland, Oregon, doesn’t let cystic fibrosis get in the way of doing the things she loves, and her WMNS Air Force 1 design echoes that sentiment. Her shoe features her basketball jersey number on the toebox, and the Swoosh features the word breathe, the genetic mutations that cause Chloe’s CF appear on the tongue, and a pair of lungs are tucked away on the sockliner. Replicated on the outsole is Chloe’s port, an implanted device that makes it easier for her to receive medications.
Donovon Dinneen, 11, Riddle, Oregon
Donovon Dinneen is a fighter. The 11-year-old from Riddle, Oregon fought through a life-threatening meningococcal infection and battled back from a kidney transplant with the help of his doctors at OHSU and the support of his family. His Air Jordan XV is a nod to his favorite anime show, featuring a rich black suede embossed with a dragon-scale pattern. Gold metal accents include Donovon’s birthday and the Japanese symbol for protection.
Joey Bates, 12, Scappoose, Oregon
Joey Bates has two heroes in his life – his mom and his dad. When Joey was four, his mom noticed he was having trouble keeping up with his friends on the playground. A long series of medical tests revealed that Joey has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that makes his body progressively weaker. It hasn’t been easy, but Joey chooses to focus on the good stuff in life, like hanging out with his brothers and cheering on his favorite athlete, Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers. Joey’s SB Dunk Low Pro features colors inspired by his team and Matthews’ number, as well as nods to his desire to be a fighter pilot and love of chicken. Let’s do amazing things for kids.
Kirsten Brown, 16, Salem, Oregon
Kirsten Brown describes herself as a survivor, which she expressed with a bold SRVVR graphic on the upper of her WMNS Air Max 97. On the outsole of one shoe, a green ribbon stands for heart transplant awareness. On the other, a red ribbon represents stroke awareness. She also threw in accents of her favorite color, lavender. “I wanted to educate people about my condition, but I also wanted to make a really cool shoe,” she explains. Although she’s still in recovery, this witty, well-spoken girl is enjoying getting back to regular teen life— going to the movies with friends, eating pizza, and rooting for her little brother Charles at his baseball games. As for her perpetually positive attitude, she says the secret is simple: ”Make other people happy.” Let’s do amazing things for kids.
Aiden Barber, 9, White City, Oregon
Aiden Barber knows a thing or two about being brave – in 2015 he was diagnosed with a brain vascular malformation. After two years of observation, including numerous MRI scans, it was determined he would need surgery. Today, Aiden is continuing to recover and using his Air Max 270 design to honor his family and his personal motto, Always Believe. The camouflage kicks also feature an image of his brain, complete with small titanium plates now implanted in his skull. You’ll also find the initials AB on the shoes, which have a special significance. Not only are they Aiden’s initials, they’re also the initials of his beloved big sister Abigail, who is exactly one year older than him.
Payton Fentress, 12, Portland, Oregon
Payton Fentress was sidelined for a while in 2010 when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and colitis. Eight years later, he has the disease under control with the help of monthly medication infusions at Doernbecher. “They’re so nice there,” he said. “The doctors always remember my name, and I like hanging out with the therapy dogs.” Now that he’s feeling better, this friendly, outgoing kid is back to enjoying his all-time favorite meal, a hamburger and fries. He also loves practicing his guitars (he plays both acoustic and electric) and dreams of traveling to Japan someday. A true sports fan, his Zoom Fly SP is a walking hall of fame, paying homage to some of the greatest moments of his favorite teams. (Like the championship dates of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Cubs.)
The entire Doernbecher Freestyle collection is available 12/14 at 10AM. Shop here.