This Nike collection is designed by children’s hospital patients

There’s a fair argument that we’re living in the golden age of sneakers, with at least a dozen exciting styles releasing every week. We try to bring you the best of the best, but that’s only a small percentage of what is ultimately a relentless flood. In the midst of this constant heckling, this year, like every year, Nike is betting on the Doernbecher Freestyle Collection, a celebration of life and a real injection of inventiveness into the market.

In 2003, Michael Doherty served on the board of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Oregon at the same time as creative director of Nike. His two worlds were very separate, but he saw an opportunity to bring them together. Thirteen years ago, he invited patient children from Doernbecher to meet design partners at Nike, forming small teams that collaborated on a shoe collection. Since that first release, the Doernbecher Freestyle collection has only grown in popularity every year, as these kids bring something to Nike that Nike itself cannot.

The full range of Doernbecher Freestyle Collection sneakers.


This year, Nike invited six patient designers to work on a collection of shoes and apparel with the only requirement that they choose their own inspiration. This collection is not a sugary memorial to these children, but rather based on their interests and desires so we can get to know them for who they really are.

Andy Grass, an 11-year-old who survived a catastrophic injury that broke bones and injured organs throughout his body, brought his vision to a pair of Kyrie IIs (with a shoutout to his mum) .

Beard, Sitting, Shelf, Carmine, Athletic Shoe, Hardwood, Flooring, Polish, Facial Hair, Walking Shoe,


Carmine, Logo se, Azure background, Electric blue, Walking shoe, Brand, Graphics, Tennis shoe, Cycling shoe,


Braylin Soon, who offers a pair of bright green Air Huaraches, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, forcing her to undergo a liver transplant at just 8 years old.

Brown hair, Mouth, Fashion drawing, Board, Hair, Fashion, Mouth, Collection, Student, Office, Learning,


Sneakers, Blue, Green, Product, White, Sport Shoe, Aqua, Line, Shoe, Clog,


Living with epilepsy has barely slowed Chase Swearingen down, and he brings his unstoppable energy and vision to a pair of Air Max Zeros.

Engineering, Glasses, Vision Care, Furniture, Table, Student, Learning, Office, Job,


Shoes, Blue, Product, Sportswear, Green, Sport Shoe, Clog, White, Aqua, Line,


Cystic fibrosis is an incurable disease that robs many of a full life, but Chehayla Hyatt has taken her fight all the way to the Senate as a 10-year-old cystic fibrosis awareness campaigner. She also created a pair of Air Max Zeros.

Student, Learning, Education, Earrings, Office, Writing Instrument, Collaboration, Office Instrument, Office Supplies, Educational Institution,


Product, Sport shoe, White, Red, Pink, Magenta, Purple, Violet, Product, Footwear, Font,


Corwin Carr’s love of airplanes is clearly evident in Stefan Janoskis’ pair he created with the Nike team, who were inspired to call on his courage in the face of a host of birth defects.

Cap, Carmine, Baseball Cap, Collection, Fashion Design, Beard, Shelf, Sweater, Learning, Beanie,


Sportswear, Blue, Product, Green, White, Footwear, Sport shoe, Teal, Aqua,


Even at the age of 10, Damien Phillips learned to manage his hemophilia on his own, quite a feat considering the seriousness of his condition. He brought his vision to a pair of Air Jordan 7s that are guaranteed to be the most popular in the collection (Jordans still are).

Laptop, Laptop Part, Dress Shirt, Job, Office, Technology, Shirt, Work, Student, Table,


Model, Pink, Carmine, Boot, Product, Black, Brown, Grey, Clog, Sport shoe,


Without fail, the Doernbecher collection is aesthetically different from anything Nike does. Whenever sneaker brands collaborate with outside talent, there is a balance between taste and aesthetics. They find a creative cohabitation in a single silhouette or a collection of products faithful to the vision of the collaborator while remaining authentic to the identity of the Nike brand. But when Nike partners with kids through Doernbecher, the brand puts kids in full control.

The sartorial senses of patient-designers aren’t necessarily as refined as adults, and neither should they be. These are children who have gone through or are going through challenges that few of us will face. The expression on these shoes is the result of their creative dreams. This can lead to confusing choices and sometimes garish designs. But that’s part of the fun of the Doernbecher collection. You can see childhood – the eye of wonder and the taste of youth – in every stitch. They are unique and offer new points of view, like a key in traditional aesthetic works. Thank god for that.

You can think they’re ugly if you want to, but if that’s all you think of them, you’re missing the point. These shoes are for the kids who designed them and an extension of their stories. Wear them for what they mean and not necessarily how they look.

You can see childhood – the eye of wonder and the taste of youth – in every stitch.

100% of proceeds from the Doernbecher Freestyle Collection will benefit OHSU Doernbecher when the collection is released on December 17th.

The irony of this collection is that the items are usually made in limited quantities and therefore become hot items in the aftermarket, often making more money for dealers than for OHSU Doernbecher. But that’s when the secondary market benefits the primary: since models from the Doernbecher collection can be a hard sell for casual sneaker wearers, increasing their prestige through resale can often make a coveted sneaker a sneaker that would otherwise be ignored. The rampant resale of these shoes ensures that the Doernbecher Freestyle collection will continue to be a hit.

And if a few hustlers make a little extra cash means that Nike and OHSU Doernbecher can have successful outings for years to come, well, that’s fine with us.

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