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Proceeds benefit Doernbecher Childrens Hospital

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jake Dering, 9, of Tualatin was one of seven Doernbecher patients chosen to design a pair of athletic shoes for the 2013 Nike Doernbecher Frestyle Collection.  Few artists get the opportunity to see their work auctioned for tens of thousands of dollars right in front of them, but 9-year-old Jake Dering of Tualatin had the pleasure last September, when he watched as a pair of Nike Free Runs he designed received a winning bid of $22,000.

“It was actually pretty fun, at the auction,” Jake said. “My mom and dad were crying because they were so proud.”

Jake designed around one central concept: big. He was inspired in part by the one platform shoe he’s had to wear to balance out the fact his right leg is three and a half inches shorter than his left. But there’s also a sense the shoe itself represents a kind of vastness — freedom, as Jake puts it.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jake Dering, 9, of Tualatin was one of seven Doernbecher patients chosen to design a pair of athletic shoes for the 2013 Nike Doernbecher Frestyle Collection.  “I want to be free from all the crutches, the halo, all this stuff that I'd been through,” he said.

Jake was born with Oto Palatal Digital Syndrome type 2, a rare genetic disorder with symptoms that include skeletal abnormalities and respiratory issues — and for Jake’s parents, a grim prognosis in his first few months of life.

There are no children currently living with this particular disease, according to Jake’s mother, Chellie. In fact, Jake is one of only 60 cases recorded in the past 50 years.

“It’s been a huge challenge for us, because every doctor we see, they’re seeing it for the first time,” Chellie said.

Jake has 19 surgeries under his belt, with another scheduled this summer. But the upbeat, aspiring dj has taken everything — frequent trips to the hospital, life in a torso, neck and head brace — in stride. He’s adopted the motto, “I wasn’t made to fit in, I was made to stand out.” In fact, these very words are printed on the inside of Jake’s own original sneakers, which he hopes to be able to wear after his leg is lengthened this summer.

In the meantime, his shoes will hit the market this Saturday as part of the 2013 Nike Doernbecher Freestyle Collection of sportswear, alongside six other pairs of cross-trainers designed by some of Jake’s fellow Doernbecher patients.

Dana Braner, vice chairman of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, said the project has one main purpose: “To honor these children who have gone through so much, by making them a part of this experience.”

Braner explained that children are nominated by physicians and nurses at Doernbecher.

“The kids work hand in glove with a Nike designer, and the designer works with Nike, with dozens of people, on this — you cannot believe how many levers are being pushed,” he said. “Together, they end up creating a shoe that reflects aspects of (the child’s) personality, or journey from sickness to health. Anything that’s important to the child.”

The originals are then auctioned, and often fetch upwards of $10,000 as prized collectibles. All profits go back into Doernbecher, to fund research or children and family services at the hospital. By teaming up with a total of 58 designers over the past decade, the project has raised a total of about $8 million.

“The kids just love it,” Braner said. “It’s so amazingly beneficial to these children who have been through so much.”

“And,” he added, “I gotta be honest, the shoes are pretty cool.”

Braner’s own daughter often sports a pair of Nikes designed by Kylee Bell from last year’s Freestyle collection.

Participants visit the Nike campus in Beaverton to meet with designers, and have final say in the look of their shoe. Braner recalls how Nike accommodated one child who had a creative change of heart late in the design process.

“She had it all the way to prototype, but decided it really didn’t express her in the way she wanted it to,” Braner said. “So she turned around and made another.”

Jake worked with a creative team headed by Darien Curl, who later visited him in the hospital when he had to undergo an unexpected follow-up procedure.

“We called it the ‘Free Jake’ team,” Chellie laughed.

“They were really nice, they really enjoyed having me, and I was just kind of really happy that I had a great supportive designer,” Jake said.

Jake’s shoes are available in youth and adult sizes, and retail for between $82 and $100. They can be purchased here starting Saturday, Nov. 23.

For more information, visit Jake's Facebook page.

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