by Brendan Dunne
The story of Matthew Walzer, a young man who caught the attention of Nike and eventually worked with the company to develop a sneaker technology to aid athletes with disabilities, continues to spread.
By now it's spread all the way to the U.S. Congress, where Representative Alcee Hastings (D) of Florida gave a statement last week recognizing Walzer's work. Hastings' statement tells the tale of the Nike FLYEASE technology that Walzer developed with Nike design legend Tobie Hatfield. Hastings underlines the detail about Walzer not settling for a one-off pair and pushing for the production of FLYEASE Nike sneakers that could help others.
Here's Hastings' speech to the House of Representatives from Tuesday, Sep. 8:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Mr. Matthew Walzer for his extraordinary contributions to the lives of those with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. It all began with a simple request to achieve a dream that most take for granted: 16-year-old Matthew needed an easier way to put on his shoes.
You see, Matthew has cerebral palsy, a condition which stiffens the muscles in the body making it difficult to walk and even speak. In an open letter to Nike's CEO Mark Parker, he explained that his condition makes it impossible to tie his shoes. Matthew, who at the time was preparing to leave high school and attend college, explained he simply wanted to go to the college of his choice and not worry about someone tying his shoes every day.
Originally, Nike planned to make just one pair of this revolutionary shoe for Matthew; however that was not enough for this inspiring young man. Matthew didn't want a special shoe just for him--he understood this was an opportunity to develop something that would benefit a diverse community of millions of people facing various physical challenges. As a longtime admirer of Nike shoes, he brought attention to the lack of a running or basketball shoe with a self-lacing system that could be used by everyone.
Matthew's discussions with Nike were the catalyst to change the world of shoe technology. Through his tireless work alongside Nike, his dream became a reality. Nike recently released the Zoom Lebron Soldier 8 FLYEASE, a shoe that features a wrap-around zipper system. Now a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University, Matthew is able to put his shoes on every day without assistance.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud of Matthew Walzer for refusing to back down from his goal and his actively seeking out a universal solution. He wanted to create a shoe not for one person, but for everyone. Even Lebron James wore them during a basketball game to prove that it was truly a shoe that everybody could wear.
I am so extremely proud to recognize Matthew Walzer as a Hastings Star Student. Matthew has overcome diagnosis after diagnosis from doctors across the nation, and has proven that no matter the obstacles, he would not settle for the status quo."