Parkland Teen Inspires Nike to Make a Shoe for People with Disabilities

By: Sharon Aron Baron

Back when Michael Walzer was a 16-year old junior at Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, he loved wearing basketball shoes, but because he was born with cerebral palsy, he had had to enlist the help of relatives and others to complete relatively every day tasks like putting on shoes as the disease had progressed.

That’s what inspired Walzer, now a college sophomore, to reach out to Nike with a simple question: “Can you help?”

According to USA Today eventually, Walzer’s letter — which was proliferated across social media in 2012 — ended up in the hands of Nike CEO Mark Parker, who put one of the company’s top sneaker designers on the case. Tobie Hatfield is officially Nike’s senior director of athlete innovation, but he’s also the man that has helped drive a number of the company’s significant advancements in sneaker and apparel technology.

That led to Walzer’s trip to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where he was greeted by Hatfield and presented the first pair of the Zoom Solider 8 Flyease shoes, in the colorway of LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, which he promptly donned just in time to meet James himself.