Nike’s latest collection may be designed by the brand’s youngest partners yet. In tandem with the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the Swoosh has launched its 18th annual Doernbecher Freestyle program, a charity-driven project that teams designers at Nike with young patients who are undergoing recovery at the institution. Swoosh-branded footwear and apparel mirrors patients’ favorite objects and hobbies, with profits from the collection benefitting the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
The Doernbecher Freestyle event has taken place for nearly two decades, engaging more than 100 young patient-designers and 236 Nike designers and developers across footwear, apparel and equipment, who volunteer their time, effort, passion and talent to this cause. The program has raised more than $30 million for the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, making it one of Nike’s most successful charity projects. Last year’s Doernbecher Freestyle event brought forward 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 percent of the proceeds benefiting the hospital.
Meet the designers — This year’s Doernbecher Freestyle program features designs from seven patients, all of whom have worked with Nike to create personalized sneakers, apparel, and accessories. Each creation empowers patients to tell their full story beyond their diagnosis — evident by glow-in-the-dark details, mac-and-cheese shoes, and butterfly-themed backpacks.
Cidni O’Brien, 16, focused on her love of soccer and animals when designing her hat, backpack, and Air Force 1 sneaker. The latter features the names of loved ones in her life — including her mom Nikki and nine pets, one of which is a chicken named Carol Bask-hen — alongside graphics of Cidni’s favorite food, shrimp pasta.
Catalina Vazquez, also 16, crafted her designs around the Galapagos Islands, utilizing 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 gone through a lot of changes, so I’m kind of like a butterfly,” she said. A DNA helix runs along the side of her sneaker, bringing awareness to Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.
As an accomplished junior wheelchair tennis player — currently ranked #11 in the world — Maylee Phelps, 15, loaded a hoodie, backpack, and NikeCourt Zoom Vapor Cage 4 sneaker with things that keep her motivated on the court. A marbled outsole and holographic details help nod to Phelps’ love of baking and arts and crafts, as a graphic on the midsole reminds wearers to “Keep Pushing.” To help bring awareness to adaptive athletics, Maylee finished off her shoe with a spine graphic on the tongue as well as a blue spina bifida ribbon on the heel.
Her brother Sam David Phelps, 14, was born with spina bifida too, but that hasn’t kept him from playing (or watching) basketball. Sam was “speechless” when designing his hoodie, pants, and LeBron 19 sneaker, citing James as his favorite athlete in the world. Phelps blinged out the shoe with metallic gold panels, lighting bolts, and his very own sporty wheelchair logo. The sneakers also feature Nike’s first-ever airbag pod, which encapsulates Sam’s initials, his birth year, and his go-to mantra: Never Back Down.
Michael Wilson, 11, attributes part of his recovery to his late older brother Marshall, who was also diagnosed with Krabbe disease. Keeping him in mind, Michael’s designs focus on “feeling happy” with graphics of airplanes, sharks, and mac and cheese. A sweatshirt, T-shirt, and Air Jordan 5 Retro Low sneaker all bear references to Michael’s passion for pilots, with “Take Flight” written on the shoe.
After battling sickle cell anemia, Ayman Wamala, 13, identifies closely with powerful Anime characters and super heroes. His hoodie, hat, and Nike Blazer Mid ’77 sneaker reflect his larger-than-life personality and acting talent, embodying Ayman’s alter-ego: a mysterious, mind-reading character 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, Zoe Taaffe, 17, realized she wanted to bring positivity to the medical field by becoming a nurse. Her optimism is reflected in her hoodie, backpack, and Nike Dunk Low, which features the colors of her favorite team — the Oregon Ducks — and a zebra-like print. The pattern is a subtle nod to the stretch marks that steroid treatment created on Zoe’s body.
A charitable cop — The unveiling of this year’s collection will take place during a livestream on February 25 at 9 p.m. ET, where viewers can meet the patient-designers and learn about their inspiration for each design. Attendees may also choose to make donations to benefit the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
On February 26 at 7 p.m. ET, people can begin bidding on the patient-designed goods on eBay, with the auction closing on March 5 at 7 p.m. ET. All proceeds from the sales will benefit OHSU Doernbecher patients and staff to better help them throughout the current health crisis.