Dear Matthew Walzer,
Last week you posted a letter on your blog asking Nike to design some shoes that can provide your feet with the support they need and are easier to fasten because you have cerebral palsy, which makes tying laces a challenge. Like you, my almost two-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy. We don’t know if she will walk, talk or be able to tie her own shoelaces, but stories like yours give us a great deal of hope.
I wanted to thank you for sharing your letter with the world — a letter that has gone viral and garnered a great deal of media attention. I hope that Nike pays attention and designs a shoe that is accessible for you and others who struggle with similar issues. It was only a few months ago that we got Syona her first pair of ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs, sometimes known as braces). I had to go find various pairs of shoes that were extremely wide and would fasten over her AFOs, which are quite bulky. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, like finding shoes that work, that remind us of our challenges.
At this young age, Syona is already showing signs of wanting to be independent, which makes me so happy as a mother. It is her motivation and drive that give me the confidence that, like you, she will do everything she can to be as independent as possible.
Based on what you wrote, I don’t think it was your intention to become a role model, but in my eyes you are one. I fully plan to save your letter and show it to my daughter when she’s older and struggling with the things that so many of us take for granted. I hope that your letter inspires her. I know it has inspired me.
You are a role model because you asked for what you needed. It sounds like such a simple thing, but so many of us wouldn’t take the time or effort to reach out to request something that would improve our quality of life. And you made that request with so much integrity. You reached out to Nike in a way that was honest, fact-based and sincere. You didn’t use social media to bully a response out of an organization. You used it to start a movement to inspire a new, more accessible product.
You mention that you would like to study journalism, and I wish you the best of luck with your efforts. At the age of 16, you’ve already made such a difference, just by being yourself and asking for what you need. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and how you change the world.
With many thanks,
Readers, if you’d like to support Matthew’s efforts please tweet this link with the hashtag #Nikeletter.
Do you or your kids have role models? If so, who are they?