Nike Releases Special Edition LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE Sneakers Inspired by Teenager with Cerebral Palsy (Video + Pics)
Three years ago, a 16-year-old kid from Florida named Matthew Walzer wrote a letter to Nike asking for help. He wasn’t holding out much hope that his request would be answered. In fact, Matthew himself described the letter as a sort of “Hail Mary” from a desperate kid. But he figured you never know unless you ask.
On Thursday, July 16, Nike released the special edition LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE shoes inspired by Matthew Walzer and designed with his input.
How did this happen? Let’s start with an excerpt Matthew’s brilliant letter:
I was born two months premature on October 19, 1995. I weighed only two pounds fourteen ounces, and because my lungs were fully not developed, my brain did not receive enough oxygen. As a result, I have a brain injury that caused me to have Cerebral Palsy…
Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life, there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes. My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes everyday.
I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe because I need ankle support to walk. I am currently wearing the Lunar hyper gamer and LeBron Zoom Soldier 6’s. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating, and at times, embarrassing…
When I think of Nike, I think of one of America’s most innovative and forward thinking companies. Nike is always pushing the limits, making their shoes lighter, faster and stronger by using new materials, new designs and new technologies. This benefits people all around the world. Bill Bowerman said it best, “If you have a body you are an athlete.” I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete, and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence.
If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them.
You can’t help but be moved by that letter. And it just so happened that Nike designer Tobi Hatfield was already working on a easy-to-use closure system for people with physical limitations. So they reached out to Matthew Walzer and made him part of the process.
When it was over they flew Matthew to Nike headquarters to present him with the first pair of LeBron Soldier 8 FLYEASE kicks he’d helped design. And of course, LeBron James himself was there.
Not surprisingly, Nike made a mini documentary about the whole process. It’s only five minutes long, but it’s fantastic and will give you all the feels. Take a look:
I’m not crying. You’re crying. Shut up!
LeBron James Soldier 8 FLYEASE are on sale for $130 right now on Nike.com. Amazing.