OHSU employee Gabe Flores got his first pair of Nikes (blue and white with a single Velcro strap) when he was in the third grade.
“I was the talk of the school!” he said.
The next year, he acquired his first pair of Nike Air Jordans. From the looks of things, it doesn’t appear that he’ll be slowing down anytime soon – he estimates that he has 70 pairs of shoes, 30 of which are Jordans. His collection has grown so extensive, he had to raise his bed 9 inches to store additional shoes.
Gabe, a trainer in Organizational Effectiveness, has been at OHSU for 15 years. He started out in patient transport and worked his way up to his current position. He’s also enrolled in a Business Management program at PSU with plans to graduate next June.
As an OHSU employee and a self-admitted “shoe hoarder,” Gabe’s interest in the Doernbecher Freestyle program comes as no surprise. The program, now in its 11th year, is a unique collaboration between OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Nike. Each year, a handful of Doernbecher patients team up with Nike designers to create customized (and highly sought-after) Nike shoe and apparel collections.
“Collecting sneakers is one thing,” Gabe said. “Taking pride and knowing what they’re all about is another thing. It’s not for personal gain; it’s for the kids.”
He’s seen first-hand the impact the program has on patient-designers’ lives – Jordan Dark, a 2009 Doernbecher Freestyle designer, was Gabe’s neighbor growing up in Mt. Angel, Oregon.
“I’ve known Jordan since he was born,” Gabe said. “I saw his reaction to being asked. The program really changes the kids’ outlook on life sometimes – they’re exposed to the marketing and business aspects as well as the design process.”
Gabe’s older sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma at age 29, a diagnosis that impacted his entire family.
“Knowing what our family had to go through with my sister, I know it’s not only the patient you’re caring for, but the families as well.”
Nike wants to do what Doernbecher does by putting kids’ well-being at the forefront, but in a different way, Gabe said.
“It really shows that both organizations care about kids. It’s really neat,” he said.
So will Gabe be posted up at his computer when this year’s collection becomes available, hoping to snag a pair?
The 2014 Doernbecher Freestyle collection will be unveiled Friday, Nov. 7. If you’re in the Portland area, you can meet this year’s patient-designer crew in person and celebrate their hard work by purchasing tickets here. Follow along online using the #dbfreestyle hashtag and following @OHSUDoernbecher on Twitter.