Design Makes a Difference: Nike and Doernbecher Collaborate to Help Kids

Aiden Barber shoe design presentation, Freestyle Event 2018

It all started with my bar mitzvah. Part of becoming a Jewish adult is through acts of service for others, so I was searching for a charity where I could participate in something that was meaningful and donate some of my gift money to help an important cause. I had searched for an event or organization that I could connect with, and when I found the Doernbecher Freestyle program and the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, I instantly realized – I found what I was seeking.

Doernbecher Shoe Tree in Nike Headquarters, Freestyle 2018.

Doernbecher is a non-profit hospital for children, where no matter the financial means of the patient, they are never turned away or refused the very best care. It is a place where the experience of being a patient is thoughtfully designed at every step of the journey from the moment you step in the door.  Not only is the hospital amazing, but every year, there is a collaboration with the designers at Nike to raise money for patient care. For me, this made it even more exciting because when I was little, I was bit by the “shoe bug”, loving all styles and designs of footwear you could imagine. (As you probably can guess, Nike sneakers are my favorite.)

Every year Nike and the Doernbecher come together for the Freestyle event where they release a line of shoes and apparel designed by a handful of the hospital’s patients. These patients tell their stories through design choices made on the shoes, with support from a team of Nike designers. Empowering these kids to tell their stories through design was so exciting, that I wanted to become more involved in any way I could. It was where I decided to donate a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money, and every year since, I have been going back to experience the event.

Shane at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Design is very special and I have always been drawn to design as a way to express myself. I like to stand out in the crowd and be unique, and fashion is my medium to do this. As long as I can remember, I have paid attention to the minute details of clothing; why certain design choices were used or how form and function came together. I used to think that design was just a surface expression, but finding the Nike Doernbecher Freestyle event changed all of that. Design helped the kids not only stand out, but gave them a voice to tell their stories in a way that others could relate.

Their ability to share their stories with others through every little detail in the shoes is inspiring. It shows that design can do far more than create a cool appearance; it has the power to give a deeper meaning to something that may be as ordinary as a shoe.

Jacob Burris, 2015 Freestyle shoe designer, and I were proud to wear Jacob’s shoes at the 2018 Freestyle Event.

Thanks to my dad, who is always there to support me, I have been fortunate to attend the Nike Dorenbecher Freestyle event for four years and counting to support the hospital. We have had the opportunity to visit the hospital, meet the staff, meet the Nike designers, and see first-hand how design can make a difference.

The 2018 Doernbecher lineup drops Friday December 14. Donations can be made to the hospital at


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Shane FruchtermanShane Fruchterman is a junior at Mounds Park Academy, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is an avid shoe collector and basketball player, when not spending time on his academics.

Shane Fruchterman




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