Over a decade ago, Nike collaborated with Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Ten patients in the hospital were chosen to do something people dream of doing. They were asked to “freestyle” it, and design a Nike shoe in whichever way they wanted to. Nike is no doubt a successful company, anything they put out there sells, especially limited edition designs. They decided that this time around, they would give back to the community. The money they raised from these shoes would go towards pioneering research, state-of-the-art-equipment, recruiting new experts, and covering the cost of care for the families who need it most. Nike calls it the Doernbecher Freestyle Program, and it’s been going on for years.
This special partnership between OHSU Doernbecher and Nike started in 2004. The charitable idea came from a little boy himself. Nike Global Creative Presentation Director, Michael Doherty, sits on the Board of Directors at the Doernbecher Foundation. He and his son discussed different ways to raise money for the hospital, and this is what they came up with. Patients were to design a one-of-a-kind sneaker, and the proceeds from the sales would go towards the hospital.
At the beginning of that first year and every year afterward, the Doernbecher Freestyle Project brought a group of OHSU Doernbecher Hospital patients to meet with Nike designer and developers. Together they create the unique shoe of these children’s dreams. The patients have all the power when it comes to the color, shape, material, and design of the shoe; the designers are just there to make it all happen. The children’s goal is to create a shoe that reflects their personality and experiences. The final product is sold as a limited edition item which makes collectors go wild.
Over the years the Doernbecher Freestyle Program raised over 6 million dollars for the hospital. Here are the stories, and designs of the first kids to participate in this program.