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The power of creativity: Meet the 2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designers

Celebrated program has raised nearly $24 million for children’s hospital; new collection of kid-designed Nike shoes, apparel to be revealed Nov. 8
Doernbecher Freestyle Logo

For the past 16 years, 97 inspirational Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designers have created Nike shoes, apparel and equipment that have exceeded all expectations.

From personalized logos and unexpected materials, to intricate details and glow-in-the-dark surprises, the most extraordinary elements of these designs are those that represent the life experiences, medical journeys and relationships of the young patients who created them.

A one-of-a-kind collaboration between OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Nike, Inc., Doernbecher Freestyle allows children impacted by significant health challenges the opportunity to inspire others and help kids receiving care at the same hospital that saved their lives.

Nike donates 100% of the profits from Doernbecher Freestyle to the children’s hospital. Since 2004, the program has raised nearly $24 million to help cover the cost of care for families in need, expand pioneering research that benefits kids around the world, and support specialized care unavailable anywhere else in the region.

What exciting elements will this year’s Doernbecher Freestyle collection bring? Only these six incredible patient-designers know (for now):

Bransen Fernando

Age: 13

Hometown: Beaverton, Oregon

Diagnosis: Kidney cancer, which required a kidney transplant                                          

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Bransen Fernando, 13 of Beaverton, Ore. (Chris Hornbecker)

When life throws Bransen “Boom” Fernando a challenge, this brave kid comes out swinging. After being diagnosed with kidney cancer at age 7 months, Bransen managed to live nearly 12 years with only half a kidney before he received a new one at OHSU Doernbecher last year.

Bransen loves to watch baseball, play golf and hang out with his dogs, Bonnie and Bosco.

Desiree Castillo

Age: 12

Hometown: Hillsboro, Oregon

Diagnosis: Diabetes, celiac disease and depression

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Desiree Castillo, 12, of Hillsboro, Ore. (Chris Hornbecker)

When diabetes and celiac disease turned Desiree’s world upside down, she struggled with depression before seeking help at OHSU Doernbecher. Now this thoughtful, empathetic girl is using her role as a Freestyle designer to raise awareness about mental health.

“If I can help just one kid, then it will all be worth it,” she says.

A huge movie fan, Desiree is learning how to do special effects makeup. She loves hanging out with her baby sister and baking gluten-free treats.

Zion Thompson

Age: 14

Hometown: Eugene, Oregon

Diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma, or cancer of the immune system

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Zion Thompson, 14, of Eugene, Ore. (Chris Hornbecker)

Fighting lymphoma is tough, but Zion has a dedicated team at OHSU Doernbecher in her corner.

“It helps to know that the doctors have my back and are fighting for me and with me,” she says. One day she hopes to be a pediatric oncologist so she can help other young patients in their own fight against cancer.

Zion loves music. Everywhere she goes, she is singing. She also plays piano and flute.

Ethan Ellis

Age: 16

Hometown: Vancouver, Washington

Diagnosis: congenital heart defect resulting in a heart transplant

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Ethan Ellis, 16, of Vancouver, Wash. (Chris Hornbecker)

Ethan Ellis is a mile-a-minute guy with a passion for basketball. Despite six open-heart surgeries (three of them at OHSU Doernbecher) to treat his congenital heart defect, Ethan has managed to maintain his upbeat attitude. He recently received a brand-new heart and can’t wait to get back on the court.

Ethan’s dream is to be an NBA point guard, for any team except the Utah Jazz.

Kahleah Corona

Age: 11

Hometown: Richland, Washington

Diagnosis: traumatic brain injury

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Kahleah Corona, 11, of Richland, Wash. (Chris Hornbecker)

Kahleah is a source of light and inspiration to everyone who knows her. A devastating car accident left her with a traumatic brain injury, but it did nothing to diminish her colorful personality. As for the OHSU Doernbecher team who worked so hard to save her life, Kahleah says, “I love them. They’re my superheroes.”

Kahleah loves baking, singing and arts and crafts – especially making slime. She’s obsessed with glitter and mermaids.

Sawyer Miller

Age: 12

Hometown: Bend, Oregon

Diagnosis: brain cancer

2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer
2019 Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer Sawyer Miller, 12, Bend, Ore. (Chris Hornbecker)

Sawyer was training as a competitive gymnast when he started feeling dizzy at practice. Tests revealed an egg-sized tumor in his brain, which the doctors at OHSU Doernbecher were able to successfully remove. Now after every clean scan, Sawyer celebrates by doing a handstand in the hospital.

Sawyer is an excellent cook and hopes to be a chef one day. He can also do a round-off- back-handspring, half-back-flip.


The designs created by Bransen, Desiree, Zion, Ethan, Kahleah and Sawyer will be unveiled on Friday, Nov. 8, at the annual Doernbecher Freestyle auction taking place at Portland State University’s Viking Pavilion.

Later this year, the collection will be sold at, Nike SNKRS app, select Nike-owned stores, as well as a few very special retail partners. 

For additional information about the Doernbecher Freestyle program, visit


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