The 2022 Doernbecher Freestyle collection will become available to the general public later this spring and will feature an array of classic and contemporary Nike shoes and apparel designed by the youngsters with inspiration from their battles with medical conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease, spina bifida, sickle cell anemia and other hurdles these kids have been forced to tackle with bravery at such a young age, according to an OHSU press release.
In the photos provided below, get a look at each patient-designer’s signature shoe from this year’s Doernbecher Freestyle unveiling and learn about the battles they face with their health and how those battles helped inspire their designs.
Ayman Wamala | Age: 13 | Hometown: Salem, Oregon
Nike Blazer Mid ‘77
Born in Kenya, Ayman was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at an early age and began treatment at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital four years ago after his family moved to Portland. An avid soccer player who also plans to pursue a career in acting, Ayman also enjoys cooking and spending time learning about the woods and honing his own outdoor survival skills.
As part of this year’s collection, Ayman is put his own personal touch on a classic Nike silhouette, the Blazer Mid ‘77. The design incorporates Ayman’s self-described mysterious alter-ego, a mind-reading character featured on the tongue of the shoe. Subtle tiger stripes on the midsole also hold a secret: they glow bright blue in UV light.
The words “Hope,” “Strength” and “Perseverance” that surround Ayman’s logo on the shoe help to inspire those who wear them.
Catalina Vazquez | Age: 16 | Hometown: Kelso, Washington
Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski
Catalina’s decision to use this wild turquoise green color for her 2022 Nike Zoom Stefan Janoski shoes was inspired by her fondness for the Galapagos Islands, a place rich in discovery. The midsole features her own hand-drawn flowers that reflect her love of nature and the butterfly graphic on top embodies the changes Catalina has experienced in her life, especially after being diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Von Hippel-Lindau is a very rare hereditary condition that causes tumors to grow in multiple organs throughout the body. In Catalina’s case, they have affected her eyes, spinal cord and brain, requiring five surgeries to remove them.
Despite fighting so many of these battles in hospital beds, Catalina remains strong and determined to let each operation serve as an opportunity to emerge stronger than before. That also helps motivate her to bring awareness to her disease as she forges a path ahead.
Cidni O’Brien | Age: 16 | Hometown: Lebanon, Oregon
Nike Air Force 1 Fontanka
Cidni was diagnosed with anomalous aortic origin of the left coronary artery in 2018. This means that a crucial artery that directs blood to her heart isn’t getting the job done. While the issue was thankfully identified, it also meant that Cidni faced the prospect of a major heart surgery at just 16.
But just six months after her operation, Cidni was back on the pitch with the Lebanon High School soccer team. Now, Cidni gets to debut her inspiring story told through these Air Force 1 Fontanka shoes which pay tribute to her supportive teammates and family and the animals in her life that have kept her outlook positive.
On these shoes you will find tributes to Cidni’s horse, Tank, her mother, Nikki, and one of her favorite foods adorning the outsole: shrimp pasta. But that’s just a few of the many secret tributes you’ll find woven into her fresh pair of kicks. You’ll have to hunt for the others.
Maylee Phelps | Age: 15 | Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Nike Court Zoom Vapor Cage 4
Maylee Phelps was born with spina bifida, a condition where the spine and spinal cord fails to develop properly. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, it hasn’t slowed her athletic aspirations. Maylee currently sits at No. 11 in the junior wheelchair tennis player rankings and aspires to represent the United States at the Los Angeles Paralympics in 2028. To get here, Maylee has had to endure several surgeries at OHSU Doernbecher over the years to improve her mobility but that hasn’t stopped her training, nor has it quelled her drive to improve.
Maylee’s shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Vapor Cage 4 features a slew of personal touches including hand-drawn stars and a bright, multicolor marbled outsole that incorporates all of her favorite colors. The tongue of the shoe features a spine graphic and a blue spina bifida awareness ribbon adorns the heel.
Michael Wilson | Age: 11 | Hometown: Dayton, Oregon
Air Jordan 5 Retro Low
Michael didn’t even have two months in this world before facing his first major obstacle in life when he was diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare genetic condition that destroys the protective coating of nerve cells in the brain and nervous system. While this disease is often fatal, Michael and his family were able to get a diagnosis early enough that it qualified him for a life-saving stem-cell cord blood transplant performed at OHSU Doernbecher. It was a resounding success.
Now, a decade removed from the procedure, Michael is enjoying life as an 11-year-old who loves – among other things – airplanes, sharks and mac and cheese, all of which are factored into the design of his Air Jordan 5 Retro Low.
One of the most attractive features of the shoe will surely be the collection of unique patches that can be swapped on or off the tongue of the shoe to let you customize it according to your own style.
Sam David Phelps | Age: 14 | Hometown: Portland, Oregon
LeBron XIX (19)
Much like his sister profiled above, Sam David Phelps doesn’t let his condition get in the way of his athletic achievements, especially where he stars: on the basketball court. Also, like his sister, Sam was born with spina bifida. While his goal in the future is to play for the USA men’s wheelchair basketball national team, he’s currently honing his craft at home where he plays for the the Portland WheelBlazers.
It’s fitting that Sam gets to design his own version of LeBron James’ signature shoe, the Lebron 19, for this year’s Freestyle collection being that James is his favorite athlete. Sam took an opulent approach to the design of this shoe, some might even say it’s a design fit for “king” with metallic gold panels, lighting bolts and an homage to his condition with a sporty wheelchair logo.
Zoe Taaffe | Age: 17 | Hometown: Tualatin, Oregon
Nike Dunk Low
It’s no doubt that Zoe Taaffe is a Ducks fan.
Zoe’s love for the University of Oregon is quite apparent in the design of her shoe, the Nike Dunk low. That isn’t the only part of her personality featured on the shoe, however. Upon a closer look at the shoe, you can find Zoe’s name hidden among zebra-like print on the midsole. The outsole is made of glow-in-the-dark material and an Oregon Duck-inspired nursing logo on the liner pays tribute to her dreams of one day becoming a nurse.
Much like her shoe, Zoe’s disease is rare. So rare in fact that when she was diagnosed with Granulomatosis with polyangiitis during her sophomore year in high school, she became one out of only 1.2 million pediatric patients to have it. This autoimmune disease causes severe inflammation of the blood vessels and her care at OHSU Doernbecher required multiple blood and plasma transfusions coupled with steroids and chemotherapy.
— Nike and OHSU Doernbecher contributed to this story.