Nike’s Next Doernbecher Sneakers Are Here – And They’re Amazing
Nike’s latest collection could be designed by the brand’s youngest partners to date. In tandem with OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the Swoosh launched its 18th annual Doernbecher Freestyle Program, a charity project that pairs Nike designers with young recovering patients at the facility. Swoosh-branded footwear and apparel reflect patients’ favorite objects and hobbies, with proceeds from the collection benefiting OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
The Doernbecher Freestyle event has been held for nearly two decades, engaging more than 100 young, patient designers and 236 Nike designers and developers of footwear, apparel and equipment, who dedicate their time, effort, passion and talent to this cause. The program has raised over $30 million for OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, making it one of Nike’s most successful charitable projects. Last year’s Doernbecher Freestyle event featured 17 exclusive “What The” Air Jordan 1 sneakers made up of past patient designs. The first AJ1 sold from the collection raised over $2 million, with 100% of the proceeds going to the hospital.
Meet the creators — This year’s Doernbecher Freestyle program features the designs of seven patients, all of whom have worked with Nike to create custom sneakers, apparel and accessories. Each creation allows patients to tell their full story beyond their diagnosis, as evidenced by glow-in-the-dark details, macaroni and cheese shoes and butterfly-themed backpacks.
Cidni O’Brien, 16, focused on her love of football and animals when designing her Air Force 1 hat, backpack and sneakers. The latter features the names of loved ones in her life – including her mother Nikki and nine pets, including a chicken named Carol Bask-hen – alongside graphics of Cidni’s favorite food, pasta with shrimp.
Catalina Vazquez, also 16, designed her designs around the Galapagos Islands, using a tropical theme for a hoodie, backpack and Nike’s SB Zoom Stefan Janoski sneaker. Hand-drawn flowers reflect her love of nature, while a butterfly graphic represents her own metamorphosis. “I’ve been through a lot of changes, so I’m kind of like a butterfly,” she said. A DNA helix runs along the side of his sneaker, raising awareness of Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome.
As an accomplished junior wheelchair tennis player – currently ranked No. 11 in the world – 15-year-old Maylee Phelps loaded up a NikeCourt Zoom Vapor Cage 4 hoodie, backpack and sneaker with things that made her motivate on the field. A marbled outsole and holographic detailing nods to Phelps’ love of baking and arts and crafts, while a midsole graphic reminds wearers to “keep pushing.” To help raise awareness for adaptive athletics, Maylee finished her shoe with a spine graphic on the tongue as well as blue spina bifida tape on the heel.
His brother Sam David Phelps, 14, was also born with spina bifida, but that hasn’t stopped him from playing (or watching) basketball. Sam was “speechless” when designing his LeBron 19 hoodie, pants and sneakers, citing James as his favorite athlete in the world. Phelps embellished the shoe with metallic gold panels, lighting bolts and his own sports wheelchair logo. The sneakers also feature Nike’s first-ever airbag, which features Sam’s initials, year of birth and favorite mantra: Never Back Down.
Eleven-year-old Michael Wilson credits part of his recovery to his late older brother Marshall, who was also diagnosed with Krabbe disease. With him in mind, Michael’s designs focus on “feeling happy” with graphics of airplanes, sharks and macaroni and cheese. A sweatshirt, t-shirt and Air Jordan 5 Retro Low sneakers all bear references to Michael’s passion for pilots, with “Take Flight” written across the shoe.
After battling sickle cell disease, 13-year-old Ayman Wamala identifies closely with powerful Anime characters and superheroes. His Nike Blazer Mid ’77 hoodie, hat and sneakers reflect his larger-than-life personality and acting talent, embodying Ayman’s alter-ego: a mysterious character who reads the minds you’ll find on the tongue of the shoe. Triangular shapes on the sneaker represent protective armor, while subtle tiger stripes glow blue under UV light.
While being treated for granulomatosis with polyangiitis at Doernbecher, 17-year-old Zoe Taaffe realized she wanted to bring positivity to the medical field by becoming a nurse. His optimism is reflected in his hoodie, backpack and Nike Dunk Low, which features the colors of his favorite team – the Oregon Ducks – and a zebra print. The pattern is a subtle nod to the stretch marks the steroid treatment has created on Zoe’s body.
A charitable cop — The unveiling of this year’s collection will take place during a live stream on February 25 at 9 p.m. ET, where viewers can meet the patient-designers and learn about their inspiration for each design. Participants may also choose to make donations to benefit the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
On February 26 at 7 p.m. ET, people can start bidding on patient-designed products on eBay, with the auction ending March 5 at 7 p.m. ET. All proceeds from sales will benefit patients and staff at OHSU Doernbecher to better support them throughout the current health crisis.