Nike helps kid with Cerebral Palsy…gives him his own sneaker

16 Nov


A couple of months ago, Nice Kicks shot the video heard around the world in response to a letter from one of our readers. Matthew Walzer wrote a letter to CEO Mark Parker about manufacturing a sneaker that would help with Cerebral Palsy. Living with Cerebral Palsy, a major hurdle for Walzer to overcome is simply putting on his own sneakers. After a few months, we caught up with Walzer to see how the project is going, and track the progress of the #NikeLetter movement.

Matthew Walzer "Signature" Kicks

Matthew Walzer’s “Signature” Kicks

NiceKicks: Matthew, how old are you?

Matthew Walzer: I am 17 years old and a junior in high school.

NiceKicks: For our readers unfamiliar with Cerebral Palsy, what is it like living with CP and what obstacles have you overcome?

Matthew Walzer: To start off, I was born two months prematurely and the doctors said I didn’t have a high chance to live due to having bad asthma. I’ve had multiple surgeries on my spine throughout my life. At first I could only walk on my tippy toes and being able to take three steps was a miracle. When I was 10 or 11 I started using a walker assisted with wheels and when I turned I advanced onto crutches. It has been a long journey for me considering at one point, I needed assistance with putting on a shirt.

Nice Kicks: You’re an avid reader of the site, what are some of your favorite sneakers?

Matthew Walzer: That’s a really tough question. I love a lot of sneakers but for me, I have to look at a lot into a sneaker. I have to look for support and comfortability considering my CP. My favorite would have to be theNike LeBron 8, either the V1 or the V2. I liked the “Yankees”“Veterans Day” and the “Entourage”colorways.

Nice Kicks: How long did it take for Nike to respond to you and get this project going?

Matthew Walzer: Thanks to Matt Halfhill and Nice Kicks, I was able receive a timely response. On August 10, Heidi Burgett from Nike DM’ed me on twitter asking for my phone number. Later that day, John Poyner of Jordan Brand called and we talked for about 45 minutes about the project and how he was going to team me up with Tobie Hatfield.

Nice Kicks: What was the process like? What was the inspiration behind the sneaker?

Matthew Walzer: It was all done completely over the phone, Tobie and I discussed what I needed in a sneaker. Tobie first called me while he was in London for the Olympic Games. Since the process started while Hatfield was in London, I decided to use the “Gold Medal” motif. I needed a good amount of ankle support, a velcro strap, and a special sole for my arches.

Matthew Walzer

Matthew Walzer "Signature" Kicks

Matthew Walzer’s “Signature” Kicks

Nice Kicks: We saw you posted some photos of your “signature sneaker” on twitter. How would you describe it?

Matthew Walzer: Well, this is actually the first prototype sneaker with a second one coming in the next couple of months. The shoe uses a 2012 Hyperdunk as the base, a zipper across the foot, and an velcro ankle strap. I would describe it as a mixture of the 2012 Hyperdunk and the Glove.

Nice Kicks: How has this sneaker helped you with your CP?

Matthew Walzer: It took me an average of a minute and a half to put on each sneakers. Now with this first prototype it takes about 20-30 seconds each shoe.

Matthew Walzer "Signature" Kicks

Matthew Walzer “Signature” Kicks

Nice Kicks: What do you expect from the second prototype?

Matthew Walzer: I called Tobie, and told him what added benefits I would need considering my CP. Tobie said he was working on a sneaker in the Innovation Kitchen with a rear-entry system.

Nice Kicks: Did Nike give your shoe a name?

Matthew Walzer: Ha, not yet. My friends are calling them the Air Walzer.

Nice Kicks: How has Nike made this experience unforgettable for you?

Matthew Walzer: I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done. It wasn’t just like they made the shoe and I’ve never heard from them again. Jason Petrie and Tom Wray of Nike Basketball treated me like one of their top-tier athletes. A day after I received the shoes, Nike called me and asked how everything was going. When I wanted to tell them what improvements could have been made, I didn’t want to sound like a jerk but Nike was very accepting. They told me they deal with improvement suggestions all the time from Kobe and LeBron, and to think now I get the same treatment as them is crazy.

Nice Kicks: What other opportunities have come from this?

Matthew Walzer: First of all, I couldn’t thank y’all enough for what Matt and Nice Kicks have done for me. At first, I thought this was gonna be a long shot, but it actually happened. I’ve received calls from multiple media outlets wanting to do interviews. It has been a wonderful and unforgettable experience.



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