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A few months ago, we discussed a very inspiring story about a Florida teenager afflicted with cerebral palsy, a life-altering condition that may result from medical negligence during pregnancy or serious medical errors before, during or after delivery.
Specifically, we wrote about 17-year-old Matthew, who was born two months premature back in 1995, weighing less than three pounds. Unfortunately, since his lungs were not fully developed at the time of his birth, he suffered oxygen deprivation and was ultimately diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
While the condition has affected Matt physically, he is still able to move independently via a wheelchair and cane. Furthermore, he has a near perfect grade point average and is headed to college in the fall to study journalism.
The one thing, however, that Matt felt needed to change in his life was his inability to tie his shoes.
In fact, he was so frustrated by the problem that he not only wrote about it on his blog, but also penned and posted a letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker asking his company to consider making an effective athletic shoe for disabled people that could close without laces.
The posting quickly became an internet sensation and through the help of the popular sneaker blog Nice Kicks, spread like wildfire over both Twitter and Facebook as #NikeLetter.
In fact, #NikeLetter made it all the way to Parker in mere hours, and Matthew was contacted by a Nike official via Twitter just three days later.
That very same day, Matthew received a phone call from a product manager for Nike’s esteemed Jordan Brand. The two talked for nearly an hour, with the product manager sharing that he, too, has cerebral palsy and is unable to play the sports he loves so much.
From there, Matthew was eventually put in contact with one of Nike’s top designers who has designed shoes for a multitude of physically challenged athletes, including Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee Olympic sprinter. Together, the two discussed the challenges Matthew faces in finding athletic shoes and how they could design a sneaker to accommodate his condition.
What they came up with was nothing short of incredible: a modified version of a Nike Hyperdunk basketball shoe outfitted with a larger personalized zipper down the front and a large Velcro wrap located at the top.
The shoe has since undergone multiple rounds of design changes thanks to input from Matthew and he has been sent a new pair of size 10 shoes free of charge each time.
It is worth highlighting once again how this inspiring story makes two very important points: the deep and pervasive impact that a condition like cerebral palsy can have on an individual’s life, and the fact that with support, quality medical care and therapy, those with cerebral palsy can often lead happy, productive lives.
Sources: The Oregonian, “The #NikeLetter hits home; company delivers shoes to teen with cerebral palsy,” Allan Brettman, Nov. 13, 2012; The Huffington Post, “Teen asks Nike to produce sneakers for people with cerebral palsy,” Eleanor Goldberg, Aug. 10, 2012