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Student is 'a perfect fit' for Doernbecher fundraiser

Tigard student turns cancer diagnosis into Nike apparel line.


Tigard student Tim Haarmann helped develop a running shoe with Nike designers during his stay at Doernbecher Childrens Hospital while recovering from his battle with cancer. Tim Haarmann isn’t your average 15-year-old.

What high school sophomores, after all, have their own clothing line?

Haarmann, a Tigard resident who attends Jesuit High School, is one of six young designers selected to contribute to Nike’s annual Doernbecher Freestyle collection, a special clothing line unveiled each year to benefit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

The project brings patients at the hospital together with Nike designers to create a unique outfit that the sportswear giant sells across the country. All the proceeds go to the children’s hospital to fund research, clinical care, state-of-the-art equipment and to help families cover medical bills.

Haarmann was diagnosed last spring with acute myeloid leukemia, a fast growing form of blood cancer.

After months of treatment, Haarmann is in remission, and said that designing the outfit with Nike was a way to pour his thoughts about the process into something he could show people.

“For me, it’s a tangible symbol that I can take away from this experience,” he said. “It embodies it all for me.”

Haarmann’s design includes a pair of $105 sneakers, an $85 hooded sweatshirt and $14 crew socks, all designed to his specifications.

The collection goes on sale in Nike stores across the country this Sunday.

Haarmann’s design reflects his journey.

“There are lots of personal things throughout that are significant to my treatment that mean a lot to me,” he said.

An avid runner, Haarmann didn’t want his stay in the hospital to slow him down, and he figured out that 24 laps around the hematology and oncology unit equaled a mile.

Every day he was strong enough, Haarmann could be found walking. By the time he finished his last treatment five months later, he had walked 1,272 laps — 53 miles — around the hospital ward.

The sweatshirt and shoes feature the number 24 prominently. The purple and gold color scheme is an homage to the University of Washington, where his parents first met.

The inside of his shoes are decorated with important dates: The day he was diagnosed, the day he finished his last treatment at Doernbecher, and the day he returned to school.

His shoes feature the names of two friends he met at Doernbecher who had also been diagnosed with AML — Big Boy and Aubrey. Both passed away before Haarmann was finished with his treatment.

Inside the hood of the sweatshirt is a checkered fabric. He calls it the finish line.

“It’s both a finish line for a race, and for me finishing cancer completely,” Haarmann said.

Haarmann said he’s excited that something he designed will be worn by other people.

“It has a lot of significance for me, but to others, it’s just a shoe,” Haarmann said. “The best part will be that every time I see someone wearing it, that it means that someone donated to Doernbecher, and it’s all going to something bigger than just me.”

From diagnosis to remission

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Haarmann shows the sole of the running shoes that he helped design with Nike designers. The various numbers hold special meaning to his battle with cancer.When Haarmann first heard the word “cancer,” he was a student at St. Anthony Catholic School in Tigard.

He had come home exhausted after a weeklong field trip to Washington, D.C., with his class, and then played in a tournament in Redmond, where he took a pitch to his left leg.

“You’d expect a bruise after a hit like that, but this was something else,” Haarmann said. “It was bigger than my fist, and it was still there after 10 weeks.”

Every day he seemed to grow weaker, and suffered fevers, and nosebleeds that lasted 30 minutes or longer.

For the first few days, Haarmann and his parents put it down to exhaustion after his trip, but when Haarmann didn’t get better, they began to worry.

On the Fourth of July, Haarmann had two bloody noses and a migraine headache. Typing the symptoms into Web M.D., his parents got back the worst possible search results: Leukemia. They immediately took their son to the hospital.

“I went from 9 a.m. not knowing that I had a doctor’s appointment, to 9 o’clock that night being admitted to the hospital with leukemia,” Haarmann said.

These days, Haarmann is just as active as ever. He plans to participate in the Portland Marathon next year, runs cross country at Jesuit and is trying out for the school’s ski team.

Our whole world

As fun as the experience with Nike was, Haarmann said he doesn’t plan on going into the apparel design business anytime soon.

He has his sights set on something else.

“I want to be a doctor,” he said. “An epidemiologist or an oncologist. I like the idea of going into a field where not everything has been discovered, or everything is known, and there are cures to be found.”

Haarmann’s time at Doernbecher taught him a lot about what it takes to be a doctor, he said.

To purchase Haarmann's outfit, and to check out any of the other designs in the Doernbecher Freestyle collection, visit Nike.com.

“I’ll have some experience in how to be a good doctor, from a patient’s perspective,” he said. “I can say, what does that person want? Because I’ve been there.”

For months, Haarmann said, Doernbecher staff became extended family.

“Being able to support Doernbecher is really cool,” he said. “I’m able to make sure we have world-class facilities like this right in our backyard.”

Haarmann’s mother, Susan, agreed.

“We’re able to have something good come out of something that was so bad,” she said. “These people took care of him. They were our whole world for months. To give back in a substantial way like that feels pretty good.”

The Doernbecher Freestyle collection goes on sale on Sunday, Nov. 23, on Nike.com and at select stores across the country.

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