Players, Patients Collaborate on Stylish Sneakers

December 14, 2023 By Traci Hale, Traci Hale,

Shooting for a stylish slam dunk this week, members of the University of Virginia men’s and women’s basketball teams joined patients from the UVA Health Children’s Pediatric Oncology program in creating kicks that will stand out this season.

For the second year in a row, the groups came together to participate in Shoes for Hope, an event that 2023 UVA alumnus Ben Herold created to support pediatric cancer patients and their families. Players and patients teamed Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena to design and paint more than two dozen donated pairs of new Nike Air Force Ones.

“This is the most fun I’ve had outside of basketball in a long time,” first year women’s basketball player Olivia McGhee said. “I had to tap into my artistic side. It’s been a very inspiring day hanging out and painting with these kids.”

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Second-year men’s basketball player Leon Bond said having the chance to talk with the patients and learning about their families “puts everything in perspective.”

“We get the opportunity to go to school and play the sport we love, and looking at our friends here today and knowing what they go through and seeing how strong they are just gives you an extra boost and inspiration,” he said. 

Players and patients partnered to design and paint shoes that coaches will wear at a home game later this season.

The project stems from the Coaches vs. Cancer partnership between the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society. UVA men’s and women’s basketball team coaches will wear the fashionable footwear during games at John Paul Jones Arena this season.

The signed sneakers will then be auctioned during the Annual Week of Giving in May as a fundraiser for Pediatric Oncology.

The stylish sneakers will be auctioned during the UVA Health annual Week of Giving in May as a fundraiser for pediatric oncology.

While he knows the patients look up to the Cavalier players, head men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett concluded the event by reminding the patients they are the real “heroes.”

“This is one of my favorite days of the year, and I hope everyone had fun. I know our players did. I just want all of you to know that you are our heroes,” Bennett said.

A close up of a shoe being dyed in green paint
Two students lean in to examine an orange and blue paint job on a shoe
Blue and Orange stripe paint job on a shoe
A group gathers and chats while painting shoes
two girls hold up their shoe to show an orange nike swoosh
person holds up a thumbs up and their shoe for a picture
wide group photo of participants
another group photo

Media Contact

Eric Swensen

UVA Health System