The Shoes That Live

By Sydney Starr

The Charter Features – 12/14/18

Everyone at ACA has walked by them at least once, probably many times a day without noticing. The shoes have been in the display case for 10 years—ever since Colin Couch designed them through the Doernbecher Freestyle program.

How The Shoes Were Designed

Couch was a student at ACA, and he graduated in 2009. Along with the shoes he designed, a newspaper clipping from Oregon City News/Clackamas Review, produced by Pamplin Media Group is displayed, which explains some of his backstory. According to this article, Couch said “’I’ve been going [to Doernbecher] since it was a few rooms at OHSU; ever since we moved here, 13 or 14 years ago.” The article also states that Couch had congenital heart disease, was ‘growth and nutritionally challenged,’ and had a clotting disorder and protein-losing enteropathy.

In 2016, Couch received a heart transplant, however, resulting complications led to his death.

The Doernbecher Freestyle program is a partnership between OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Nike. It started in 2003, and has raised nearly 24 million dollars to date, according to the Doernbecher Freestyle 2018 website.

In 2008, 19 year-old Couch was chosen to be one of the patients to participate in the Freestyle program. Pamplin Media Group says “Nike shoe designers gave Couch a white prototype shoe and told him scribble on it or draw whatever he wanted. ‘So I sat down and my mom started reading a story and I started doodling on it. I liked the design – it was stream of consciousness,’ he said.”

Bradley Abbott, a close family friend of the Couch’s and a fellow ACA student, says “Actually the sole of the shoe is his paint palette, yeah, he just kind [of] smushed it on there.”

The Doernbecher Healthy Families blog says of Couch “With his signature bow tie and larger-than-life personality, Colin Couch is an unforgettable member of the 2008 Doernbecher Freestyle team.”

Lara Fabrycki, ACA founder and former director, says of Couch “He was really a remarkable person in so many ways.”

What The Shoes Mean To ACA

ACA’s director Seanna Bloemer says “To show we’ve always been a school of about innovation and creativity and doing things differently. And then to celebrate some of the things kids do. That’s a very unique thing one of our students has done…We’ve been able to have a setting where kids can be creative and accomplish some cool things.”

According to Bloemer, ACA has no plans of removing the shoes from the display case in the future.

Fabrycki says “To begin with, it was just a creative expression by one of our students, he had an opportunity to design something and incorporate elements that were meaningful to him, which is a fantastic opportunity for anyone. But then to also have it be a public offering that people could purchase and be part of.” Furthermore, “[This history] is especially valuable, because we learn best from our peers, more easily, maybe more meaningfully from our peers.”

Fabrycki continues, “The only way to keep our history alive, is by speaking it to people going forward and showing it [the shoes] as an example, it might… inspire a student, that’s why…[it’s important] to know about people and their accomplishments, and to keep that flow of possibility open to students…”


Abbott, Bradley. Personal Interview. December 6, 2018.

Bloemer, Seanna. Personal Interview. December 11, 2018.

Fabrycki, Lara. Phone Interview. November 28, 2018 and December 10, 2018.

Hargens-Bradley, Tamara. OHSU Healthy Families Blog. Doernbecher Freestyle fan favorite No. 3 to be released Aug. 3. Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Accessed December 8, 2018.

OHSU Onward. Doernbecher Freestyle. Accessed December 8, 2018.

Spitaleri, Ellen. Pamplin Media Group. Nikes newest shoe designers: OC teens. Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Accessed December 8, 2018.