Nike and Doernbecher Children's Hospital have teamed up for the second annual Doernbecher Freestyle project, which provides the opportunity for artistically inclined young patients battling serious illness to design Nike footwear. Working with Nike designers, the patients enjoy complete creative control as they are taken through the process of footwear design: choosing styles and material, and experimenting with color and patterns to create a complete line of Nike footwear.

But this project goes beyond giving budding designers the chance to make a bold fashion statement — it is also a unique fund-raising partnership with Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Oregon's premier pediatric medical center. The 2006 Doernbecher Freestyle collection will be available for purchase at and at Niketown stores nationwide to raise proceeds that will benefit research, health care for uninsured children, and new advances in medical technology at Doernbecher. In its inaugural year, the program raised $140,000 for the hospital.

From sports to wildlife to personal outlook on life, the young designers derived their creative inspiration from a number of places. Working with Nike designers, the kids built their creations using current Nike footwear styles. Designs were adorned with everything from lightning bolts to faux fur to shimmering gold, resulting in a limited-edition line of uniquely reinterpreted shoes. In all, the line will include a total of five running and basketball styles.

With their brilliant colors and in-your-face patterns, the shoes reflect the personalities of their young designers. These talented kids represent a cross-section of the 56,500 children from Oregon and beyond who receive care each year at Doernbecher — the region's most comprehensive pediatric health center. Ranging in age from 13 to 20, this year's designers have survived cancer, neurosurgery, spina bifida, heart surgery and cystic fibrosis. Together, they have created a shoe line that offers thoughtful and creative designs.

  • Sam Bishop, 13, a brain tumor survivor, pays homage to his beloved
    University of Oregon Ducks with a yellow-green-and-duckfeet-bedecked
    version of the Nike Shox Bomber basketball shoe.

  • Randi Helkamp, 14, a spina bifida patient, creates a bold version of
    the Nike Air Total Package basketball shoe with faux leopard skin and
    red patent leather inspired by her passion for animals.

  • Ken Schroder, 20, a cystic fibrosis patient, credits the hot rod flames
    on his Air Max Rival running shoes to his pedal-to-the-metal attitude
    toward life.

  • Hartley Kelly, 14, a neurosurgery survivor, let her love of the great
    outdoors shine through in her fluorescent green and blue Air Pegasus
    2005 running shoes.

  • Erin Gray, 18, a cardiology patient, designed a purple, crimson and
    white Air Pegasus 2005 running shoe, a nod to her school colors and
    athletic pursuit as a distance runner at the university she attends.

Priced from $70 to $135, the shoes are available in women's sizes 5 to 12 and men's sizes 6 to 15.

Sue Nicol, executive director of the Doernbecher Children's Hospital Foundation, said the program is remarkable on multiple levels. It is simultaneously an effective fund-raising program, an uplifting opportunity for kids who have battled serious medical conditions, and a source of national recognition for Doernbecher's high-quality programs. But in the world of philanthropy, she said, Freestyle also serves as “a fantastic model for how a nonprofit can benefit from a strong relationship with its board members.”

Originally proposed by Doernbecher Foundation Board Member Michael Doherty, Nike's Global Presentation Creative Director, the program has proved to be equally rewarding to Nike and the designers who participate. Nike designer Marcus Tayui has worked on the project since its inception. “The best thing here is that we learn just as much from the kids as they learn from us. The ideas generated by these fledgling designers have helped change the way I design shoes,” he said. “They created color pairings and design ideas that I had never considered. We each got something rewarding from the experience.”