The Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation today announced a contribution of nearly $600,000 from Nike through the Doernbecher Freestyle program, a philanthropic partnership between Nike and OHSU Doernbecher, the region’s premier pediatric medical center. Nike officials presented the check Saturday, Sept. 20, at the fifth annual Doernbecher Freestyle unveiling/auction event at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland headquarters.
The five-year-old Freestyle program gives Doernbecher patients who have battled serious illness the opportunity to design their own Nike sneakers, which are sold nationwide to raise funds for the hospital. Nike generously donates its proceeds from retail sales of the Freestyle collection back to Doernbecher. To date, the program has raised nearly $2 million for Doernbecher from shoe sales and event proceeds.
This year’s contribution of $599,469 was raised from sales of the 2007 Freestyle line. Nike attributed the fourfold increase over the prior year’s proceeds to a significant expansion of the program. To maximize philanthropic impact, the company added a sixth shoe to the line and gave patient-designers the chance to work with some of its strongest selling men’s and women’s styles.
The size of the donation came as a surprise to Doernbecher representatives. “We had heard it would be big,” said Doernbecher Foundation Executive Director Sue Nicol, “but we had no idea it would be so over the top. We were all completely bowled over, not only by the size of the check but by the exceptional generosity of everyone at Nike who has made this program possible over the past five years. We couldn’t be more grateful.”
Nicol said that funds generated by the Freestyle program have provided crucial unrestricted support for Doernbecher, meaning the money can be directed to the hospital’s areas of greatest need. “Over the years, Freestyle has helped us expand our cancer center, provide sophisticated equipment for our physicians and researchers, offset the cost of care for families without health insurance and so much more. And that’s on top of the wonderful experience it gives the patient-designers. These kids have been through a lot, and it means a great deal to them to be able to give back to the hospital that, in many cases, has saved their lives. It’s difficult to think of a program that’s more rewarding, and more fun to work on, than Freestyle.”
Several thousand Nike employees would probably agree with that statement, said program creator Michael Doherty, Nike’s global presentation creative director and a member of the Doernbecher Foundation board of directors. Freestyle involves the efforts of about 8,000 Nike employees in every department of the company as the kids’ creations evolve from the drawing board to the factory line to Niketown store shelves. “People are always telling me this is the best thing they get to work on all year,” Doherty said.
Freestyle, which began as an idea borrowed from Doherty’s shoe-collecting son, has grown into a significant fundraiser for Doernbecher, he said. “That’s extremely important, but what’s just as important to me is the incredible experience Freestyle provides for everyone who touches it, from the designers and their families, to everyone at Doernbecher and Nike, to everyone who buys a pair of Freestyle shoes. It is impossible not to be uplifted by what we’re doing here.”
The 2008 Freestyle collection includes five new shoes designed by Doernbecher patients and one style created by famed Nike designer Mark Smith to mark the program’s fifth anniversary. This year’s line contains several surefire collectors’ items, including a rare Air Jordan Retro 1 already creating a buzz among the nation’s sneaker collectors. This year’s kid-designed shoes also include two different Air Force 1 designs, a Free Mary Jane style for women, and an Air Zoom Vomero+3 running shoe. Smith’s anniversary shoe, a white Air Max, features the Dolly Doernbecher logo on the tongue tag, Nike’s swoosh and laces in its signature orange, and multicolored outsoles. (Check out all six at: www.nikebiz.com/media. Go to galleries to find the images.)
During Saturday’s event, which raised an additional $280,000 for Doernbecher, a pair of each shoe autographed by Tiger Woods was auctioned to the highest bidder. Through the magic of video, tennis star Maria Sharapova opened the bidding with a pre-recorded message for patient-designer Emily Giersch of Oregon City, whose Hawaiian-themed shoe had caught her eye. Sharapova’s $6,000 bid fell short, however, as the shoe ultimately sold to another bidder for $7,000. In another Freestyle first, Eugene resident Staci Wright’s splashy running shoe attracted two competing high bids of $20,000.
This year’s patient-designers hail from Portland, Oregon City, Albany and Eugene. They were treated by Doernbecher specialists in cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, neurosurgery and cardiology. They took to the stage Saturday to share their compelling stories, discuss the inspirations for their shoes and pump up the crowd before the bidding wars commenced. The shoes unveiled Saturday will go on sale Nov. 14 at Niketown stores nationwide and at www.nike.com.
(Note to editors: More information about the program and the designers, including a downloadable fact sheet, is available at www.doernbecherfoundation.org. To interview patient-designers or Freestyle program spokespersons, contact Mike MacRae at firstname.lastname@example.org, 503 412-6372.)
This year’s Freestyle designers include:
Brandi Berger, 15, Albany, Oregon
Health issue: Diabetes
Personal: Basketball fan, farm girl, exercise addict
Shoe facts: Air Force 1 that pays homage to some of Brandi’s top passions: hoops, health...and heifers!
Winning auction bid: $8,000
Colin Couch, 18, Oregon City, Oregon
Health issue: Heart condition
Personal: Chef, actor, artist, raconteur
Shoe facts: White Air Force 1 with lasered-on doodle patterns and the artist’s signature bow tie.
Winning auction bid: $8,000
Emily Giersch, 17, Oregon City, Oregon
Health issue: Neurosurgery
Personal: Born performer, elephant lover, dreamer
Shoe facts: Nike Free Mary Jane slip-ons inspired by the surf, sun and sand of Hawaii.
Winning auction bid: $7,000
Tony Taylor, 16, Portland, Oregon
Health issue: Kidney transplant
Personal: Super-fan, sneaker head, “Fresh” guy
Shoe facts: Ultra-collectible Air Jordan Retro 1 with a tropical twist, plus a nod to Tony’s alter ego: Mr. Boober!
Winning auction bid: $12,500
Staci Wright, 16, Eugene, Oregon
Health issue: Cancer
Personal: Shopaholic, globe-trotter, guardian angel
Shoe facts: Splashy Air Zoom Vomero+ 3 loaded with colorful symbols of Staci’s triumph over disease.
Winning auction bids: Two pairs sold for $20,000 each
The Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that raises private philanthropic support for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University and invests and manages those funds in accordance with donors’ wishes.