Unable to tie shoes, a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy wrote to Nike. They came through big time.

When people say, "It never hurts to ask," this is probably what they're talking about.

For decades, Nike has been one of the biggest names in the athletic shoe game.

Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and dozens of other premier athletes have all at one time or another had high-end, custom apparel designed for them by the team at Nike.


Here's Michael Jordan on the court during a 1992 playoff game, sporting his namesake sneaker. Photo by Jonathan Daniel /Allsport/Getty Images.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Nike's new Flyease shoe line was inspired by a person, too.

But this time, the person behind the shoe isn't a professional athlete. He doesn't even recreationally play basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, volleyball, or anything like that.

He's just a regular guy named Matthew Walzer who reached out to the company for some help.

Three years ago, Matthew wrote a letter to Nike, explaining that as the result of having cerebral palsy, he's not able to tie shoes.

His letter, written when he was 16, reads in part (emphasis added):

"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.

I know that Nike makes slip-ons, sandals and other types of shoes. However, I and many other physically challenged people are unable to wear them due to a lack of support. 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."


All images via Nike Basketball and Swanson Studio.

To Matthew's surprise, Nike was on board.

They were so on board, in fact, that they decided to design custom shoes just for him. Nike designer Tobie Hatfield got hold of Matthew's letter and began working with him to create the shoe right away.

The shoes use an innovative zipper design that can be operated with one hand.

It works like a slip-on but then wraps around the back, making it easy to put it on with just one hand. This was awesome for Matthew.


Tobie and Matthew continued to work together, refining the design so other people facing similar challenges could benefit.

Tobie invited Matthew to come in and check out the final version of the Flyease shoes, which, as Matthew notes in the video below, is great because it's a shoe that works just as well even for people who aren't limited to using just one hand for putting on shoes.

And while he was there, Matthew even had a chance to meet one of his heroes: LeBron James. He seemed pretty excited, to say the least.

The whole experience seems to be a major win for both Matthew and Nike.

While not everyone will be able to afford the shoes — they are Nikes after all — this is still a positive step toward more inclusive branding. Companies design products to make money, and often the reason they don't make products for “niche" markets is because they're afraid of losing money.

But with this move, Nike proves that you can create a product designed for the needs of a smaller community that has mass appeal as well. And while Nike isn't a perfect company (few companies are), they listened, and they helped solve a problem that they maybe didn't even know existed. This story has a positive outcome for everyone involved.

This is how we help make the world a better place — by learning about each others' struggles and asking the very simple question, "What can I do to help?" You never know when you'll be in the position to make someone else's life a whole lot easier.

You can learn more about the Flyease story by watching this video or by heading over to Nike's website.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

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Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

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Courtesy of Macy's

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You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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