The Nike Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher shoe holds a special place in sneaker history. This highly coveted Jordan Brand collaboration represents more than just a beautiful piece of footwear design. The story behind the shoe and what it represents for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital makes the Air Jordan 4 DB an important part of sneaker culture.
In 2004, Nike teamed up with the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon to allow young patients to design their own Air Jordans. This resulted in the release of the first ever Air Jordan x Doernbecher shoes. Since then, a new Doernbecher Jordan collab has dropped nearly every year.
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher from 2009 is considered one of the most iconic and sought-after shoes from the collection. Designed by Doernbecher patient Carissa Navarro at just 11 years old, the shoe perfectly encapsulates Navarro’s personal story and flair for design.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history and background of the AJ4 Doernbecher, Carissa’s design details, the shoe’s release and reception, and why it continues to have such an impact on sneaker culture today.
The Doernbecher x Nike Partnership
The Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland is renowned for its excellent pediatric care. Since the 1990s, Doernbecher has also been admired for its creative annual fundraiser – the Doernbecher Freestyle program.
Young Doernbecher patients are invited to design their own shoe in partnership with Nike designers. The shoes are then auctioned off to raise funds for the hospital. Nike also produces limited runs of the shoes, with all proceeds going to Doernbecher.
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher was the product of the 6th annual Doernbecher Freestyle charity program in 2009. That year, six kids designed Jordan Brand shoes to be auctioned and sold.
Over the years, the Doernbecher x Nike collaboration has raised over $30 million for the hospital. The shoes also serve to inspire Doernbecher’s brave young patients as they battle serious illnesses.
Carissa Navarro’s Inspiring Story
Carissa Navarro was an energetic 11-year-old from Eugene, Oregon when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. Despite having a tumor in her leg and lung metastases, Navarro insisted on walking the runway when modeling her shoe design at a Doernbecher Freestyle fashion show.
Navarro called her shoe design “Reaching New Heights.” The name reflected her determination to overcome cancer. Tragically, Navarro passed away in 2010 at the age of 12. But her inspiring legacy lives on through her vibrant Air Jordan 4 design.
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher Design Details
Navarro wanted her AJ4 design to reflect her own style and journey with cancer. She chose a bright blue suede upper representing the blue skies of Oregon. The black and red accents were inspired by her favorite superhero, Spiderman.
Navarro placed intricately drawn butterflies on the heel and liner of the shoe. To her, butterflies symbolized growth and change. She handwrote “Reaching New Heights” on the sockliner as an uplifting mantra.
The translucent outsole contained Navarro’s sketch of herself walking the runway. Other personalizations included her astrological sign on the heel, her initials “CN” on the hangtag, and “Carissa” etched on the inner tongues.
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher was full of thoughtful designs and Easter eggs that made the shoe truly special and one-of-a-kind.
The Shoe Release and Posthumous Tributes
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher was released on January 23, 2010 at a retail price of $200. The stock was extremely limited, making the DB 4 highly coveted from the start. As only 72 pairs were made, the shoe sold out instantly.
After Carissa’s passing, the AJ4 DB became something greater than just a rare sneaker. It represented Carissa’s bravery, creativity, and indomitable spirit.
Michael Jordan himself paid tribute to Carissa by handwriting a letter to her family. Nike commemorated Carissa with a memorial wall at their World Headquarters.
The DB 4s also appeared in Doernbecher Freestyle auctions over the years to continue raising funds in Carissa’s honor. Sneaker collectors cherish the shoe both for its rarity and as a tribute to an inspiring young woman.
The Enduring Legacy
Over a decade since its release, the Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher still holds an important place in sneaker history. It represents the first-ever Jordan Brand x Doernbecher shoe created to support the hospital’s incredible mission.
The DB 4 is also a testament to Carissa Navarro’s design skills and her positive spirit when battling a terrible illness. Jordan Brand has created over 50 Doernbecher shoes to date, but Navarro’s Air Jordan 4 stands out as one of the most iconic.
Despite its limited numbers, the AJ4 DB continues to garner interest and stratospheric resale values from collectors. Deadstock pairs can fetch over $20,000 today. The shoe even inspired a commemorative Jordan 4 SE Doernbecher in 2019 to celebrate the program’s 15th anniversary.
While prices remain astronomical, Carissa’s story and vision still touch sneaker enthusiasts worldwide. For these reasons, the Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher will forever be remembered as an important cultural artifact representing compassion, creativity, courage, and the power of young people to change the world.
The Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher shoe represents more than just a hyped sneaker release. The passionate story behind the shoe’s design makes it a cultural symbol of empathy, hope and human potential.
Young designer Carissa Navarro left an indelible mark on the sneaker community despite her short life. Her shoe continues to raise money for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, allowing her uplifting spirit to improve pediatric care and transform lives. Even a decade later, the Air Jordan 4 Doernbecher remains an unforgettable and inspiring sneaker.