Kid designers launch Nike Doernbecher Freestyle Collection to raise money for children’s hospital

It hasn’t gotten old for Michael Doherty, watching the launch of another line of sneakers benefitting the Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Far from it.“The designs are the kids‘ designs,“ said Doherty. „They really push the envelope.“

Doherty, Nike’s senior creative director of global brand presentation, stood Sunday morning near the bottom of the repurposed bleacher steps in Nike Portland, the downtown retail showcase for Oregon’s footwear and apparel behemoth.At the top of those stairs, a once-a-year phenomenon was about to be unleashed on the public.Sunday marked the public unveiling of the 2014 Nike Doernbecher Freestyle XI collection, six one-of-a-kind shoes and apparel items. In addition to Nike Portland and the company’s website, the items were made available at select Nike retail locations across the country, with proceeds benefitting OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Starting last year, the fund-raising product line began to include apparel.“The apparel people came to us and said, ‚We want in,'“ Doherty said.Doernbecher chooses patients – typically a half dozen in all – to collaborate with a team of Nike footwear and apparel designers and developers. The products all have bits of whimsy reflecting their young inspiration as well as serious reminders of why they had the opportunity – such as the shoelaces with the names of two patients who’ve died or a shoe with the date of diagnosis of a brain tumor.A few weeks before the products are offered for purchase, Doernbecher and Nike hold an auction at the Portland Art Museum, attended by the patients, their families and friends and others.

„The beauty of it is that all of the proceeds go to the hospital,“ Doherty said. „You just kind of get caught up in it.“Doherty is a long-time board member of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation. His son, Connor, first envisioned Doernbecher Freestyle as a means of raising money for the children’s hospital. From the principle of it-takes-one-to-know-one, sneaker collector Connor said other sneaker collectors would gobble up the one-of-a-kind sneakers.To say the least, he was right. The endeavor has raised $11 million since its inception.

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A 43-year-old sneaker collector named Troy, who did not want to give his last name, was near the front of the line. He was among a lucky handful of shoe buyers who’d been picked in a lottery and were allowed to enter the store at 10 a.m., which would ensure there would be shoes to buy.While he had 60 pairs of sneakers in his personal collection, Troy said he was more interested in purchasing shoes for a child.“I like the Penny. The color scheme is nice,“ Troy said of the Air Max Penny LE, designed by Alejandro Munoz, 8, of Portland.As it turned out, however, that was one of two sneakers that would not be available until Dec. 6. The other is the Nike Free 5.0 designed by Melissa (Missy) Miller, 14, of Turner.

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Doherty, an entertainment veteran of sorts, serves as the mirthful emcee.But a video shown during the auction evening also reminds people why the fund-raiser was started and the urgent need to find cures for deadly diseases.“There’s a lot of tears at the event as well as fun,“ Doherty said.On Sunday, hours before the Nike Portland doors opened to the public at 11 a.m., a line stretched eastward on Southwest Morrison Street from the store’s front door at Southwest Fifth Avenue.