Doernbecher Freestyle: Designing for Kicks

It’s not often designers are told: there are no rules. But Doernbecher Freestyle is driven by imagination. This partnership between Nike and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital pairs young patients with Nike designers to reimagine Nike’s most iconic shoe brands. Together, they create shoe and apparel collections to benefit the hospital.

Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the Doernbecher Freestyle design process.

5:30 p.m. - Reception with beer, wine and light refreshments
6:00 p.m. - Program begins

In this panel discussion, Doernbecher kids will reunite with their Nike design teams. Kids approach design problems with no sense of limitation, unhindered by what “can’t be done.” Their fresh perspective has inspired Nike designers to experiment, source new materials and pursue unconventional combinations to bring kids’ visions to life. The resulting products could not have been imagined were it not for this collaboration.

Now in its 14th year, Doernbecher Freestyle has raised nearly $17 million to help kids and families facing serious illness.


Kira Smith was 17 when she designed her one-of-a-kind Nike Dunk Sky High. Inspired by her love for Victorian fashion, Kira’s design features lace embossing, ribbon laces, and a corset detail up the heel. Key, clock, and playing card motifs reference Alice in Wonderland. Kira identified with Alice, a young girl who goes on a sometimes harrowing adventure within her own mind. The outsole features a quote from the Cheshire cat: “We’re all mad here.” Kira overcame a debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder with the help of the Doernbecher child psychiatry team. “A lot of people with mental illness are told it’s not real,” she says. “But it is real, and I want to show people that they can get help.”

Kira will be joined by her Nike collaborators, designer Jenn Scholes and developer Brooke Rapf.

Andy Grass, age 12, was critically injured when a wave rolled a log over him on the beach, crushing much of his body and collapsing both lungs. He spent more than three weeks at Doernbecher, where doctors worked round the clock to stabilize his injuries. This spring, he’ll rejoin his teammates on the baseball field. His remarkable recovery is chronicled in his Kyrie 2 shoe. The story unfolds through a series of thoughtful details that are revealed only upon closer inspection. Lift up the Velcro closure to reveal a message: “love mom.” Look further for notes in Kyrie’s handwriting, a material that changes color in the sunlight, and a custom logo that represents Andy’s resilience. “Designing the shoe helped me talk to my family more about the accident,” says Andy. “And I think it’s important to share our feelings like that sometimes.”

Andy will be joined by his Nike collaborators, designer Anum Malik and developer Raleigh Willard.

Host: Michael Doherty, Nike senior creative director

Moderator: Lee Banks, Nike product director