Since 2003, Nike has worked with the Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to hold an annual event called the Doernbecher Freestyle, and the project has raised more than $29 million for research and funding over the past seventeen years. Each year, select young patients at the hospital will partner with Nike designers to put their unique twists on some of the Swoosh’s classic sneakers.
For 2021, however, the standard method of team-up was halted due to the pandemic. Therefore, this year’s take on the project was to create a mashup of 14 Air Jordan 1 sneakers from previous patient-designer collaborations and come up with a special Air Jordan 1 called “What the Doernbecher.” And an impressive $565,069.88 was raised this year to support the children.
“This year, we weren’t able to have patient-designers, but that didn’t stop us from celebrating, because it’s an annual moment that the kids, the sneaker community and Doernbecher circles on their calendars — as well as all of us at the company,” says Eric Sandy, Color Design Director for Jordan Brand. “We took it as an opportunity to celebrate prior patient-designers and their inspiring stories, culminating those details into a ‘What The’ design.”
This year’s Virtually Freestyle event started on February 25, and the bid went for the first pair was initially $1.5 million. But as the event went on, it was halted as Nike revealed that the opening bids were fake. Thankfully, the auction did resume on March 2, and it ended on March 7 without any further hitch. The average bid for a pair of “What the Doernbecher” kicks was $33,239, with the highest bid going for slightly under $53K.
Seventeen pairs of the shoe were made this time around, one to commemorate every year the project has been in existence, and each set came in a laser-engraved wooden box and a hoodie to go along with them. Check out the gallery below to see where each of the previous years’ sneakers can be found in the 2021 “What the Doernbecher,” and take in the overall dope design of the shoe.