Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nike Delivers Custom Shoes to Teen with Cerebral Palsy

November 26, 2012
By Allan Brettman

View similar stories in our “In the News” section.

Nike designed special shoes for Nascar fan Matthew Walzer. Walzer has muscular cerebral palsy. Courtesy of  Matthew WalzerIt started with an impassioned letter from a Parkland, Fla., teenager to Nike Chief Executive Mark Parker. It ended with a dream come true.

Matthew Walzer told Parker he has cerebral palsy, that he weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces at birth and that doctors told his parents their son would never walk.

They were wrong, Walzer wrote. He can walk with some difficulty, has a perfect grade point average and he’s headed to college next year.

But Walzer had a request for Parker, which blazed through Twitter and Facebook as the #NikeLetter, gaining more fuel on the sneaker blog nicekicks.com and eventually making its way to Parker, who was attending the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

“I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes,” Walzer wrote. “As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating, and at times, embarrassing.”

To his surprise, an official at Nike contacted Walzer through Twitter three days after he wrote that letter, asking for his phone number.

Later that day, John Poyner, a 23-year-old product manager for Nike’s Jordan Brand, called.

The first thing Poyner wanted to say was that he, too, has cerebral palsy and he, too, has a passion for sports but can’t play them.

The two talked for nearly an hour.
Special shoes designed by Nike for Matthew Walzer. Walzer has muscular cerebral palsy; credit: Allan Brettman/The OregonianLater, Nike connected Walzer with Nike designer Tobie Hatfield.

Walzer, 17, told Hatfield about the physical challenges he faces every day, the difficulty in finding adequate shoes and the elements that might make for a cerebral palsy-friendly Nike shoe.

Hatfield, whose brother Tinker also works at Nike, has some experience working with physically challenged athletes. His product collaborators include Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee Olympic sprinter from South Africa, and amputee triathlete Sarah Reinertsen.

The size 10 shoe Hatfield engineered for Walzer was a twist on an existing Nike Hyperdunk basketball shoe. Instead of laces, the shoe used a zipper in front — personalized with “Walzer” on the zipper — and a large Velcro wrap at the ankle. A pair arrived at Walzer’s home Oct. 28.

He has worn the shoes at school, where he navigates with a wheelchair and a cane.

But he doesn’t wear the shoes every day. He doesn’t want to get them unnecessarily dirty, like at one of his beloved NASCAR races.

He says the shoes aren’t perfect, that he’s suggested more design changes to Nike to accommodate the inward rolling sole that is common among people with cerebral palsy. The Oregon company sent Walzer two more pairs, again free of charge, just before Thanksgiving.

Walzer says he could have presented his request to another shoe company, but focused on Nike since it’s his favorite brand. He also said he was motivated to write Parker based on a famous quote from the company’s co-founder, Bill Bowerman: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.”

Walzer, who aspires to be a sportswriter, even used a coaching analogy in describing how cerebral palsy has, in a way, helped him.

“It’s that coach that pushes and pushes you to reach your goals.

“It’s your enemy in a good way and a bad way. It’s your enemy that makes you want to go out there and say ‘I will do whatever I want to do."

Join Our Family
Sign up for our free enewsletter for more blogs, articles, and news about CP kids and their families.

No comments:

Post a Comment