Nikes for Nurses: A GoFundMe Campaign Takes a Necessary Step in Supporting Frontline Healthcare Workers

Ajón Crump checks a box of Nikes intended for shipping.
Ajón Crump checks a box of Nikes intended for shipping.
Photo: Ajón Crump

May 6 through May 12 is Nurses Week 2020, and if you weren’t in the habit of appreciating our vital healthcare workers before, no doubt you are now. In fact, the American Nurses Association has extended the week to the entire month of May—and it should be noted that 2020 was already designated as the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

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Most of us will never know what it’s like to be in the shoes of a healthcare worker, especially during the unfathomable experience of being on the frontlines during the fight against COVID-19. But New Yorker Ajón Crump is doing her best to ensure that those doing the work (and enduring the risk) have the footwear they deserve, launching the Nikes for Nurses campaign in mid-April to provide a less-discussed yet much-needed resource for these essential workers.

“My first goal was to help out in some way. It didn’t necessarily have to be in a large capacity—if I was delivering groceries, that would have been enough,” the 26-year-old tells The Glow Up. “And then my cousin mentioned that she wanted sneakers for her birthday, and she’s an R.N. in Florida. So, that was the first moment where I was just like, ‘Oh, nurses definitely need sneakers; [they’re] definitely an essential part of the uniform.’”

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Unsurprisingly, many nurses are experiencing a high turnover of their footwear as this highly contagious crisis rages on, and many plan to discard them altogether when it eventually ends (prayers up). Crump, had become well accustomed to hours on end spent on her feet as a Mac technician at Apple’s Genius Bar; when she decided that she wanted to make a grand gesture of thanks to our healthcare workers, the longtime Nike devotee knew exactly what brand of sneaker she wanted to gift.

“[Nike] is a company that I’ve always admired for their core values and how people-focused they are,” Crump says while taking a few minutes to chat by phone from her home in Long Island, N.Y., where she’s still working full-time. “I really appreciate the role that they took in COVID-19 relief, even as it first started, when they mentioned that they were closing their stores and paying their retail employees. Those are all things that I like to see and all things that mirror the company that I work at, so that’s why Nike.”

Specifically, Crump has chosen to gift the Nike Air Zoom Winflo 5, a personal favorite of the budding philanthropist and one she hopes her beneficiaries will enjoy, as well. “I love them,” she says. “I think that they are also a good-looking shoe…I was very big on my getting nurses a fresh new pair that look good. Like, you deserve it all.”

So, how does it work? While Crump initially purchased an array of sneakers and used social media to broadcast available sizes, she’s now taking orders from nurses or their loved ones for specific sizes. After asking for the hospital or medical facility where they work and their role in that medical facility, she places orders each Friday and Sunday, and ships the following week. Having now formed a five-member, all-female crew of volunteers, Crump is able to focus on some special touches, like replacing each box’s packing slip with a handwritten thank-you card to the recipient.

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Ajón Crump personally addresses a box ready for shipping.
Ajón Crump personally addresses a box ready for shipping.
Photo: Ajón Crump

“I love when loved ones of nurses reach out to me because then I can include part of their story in the thank-you card,” she says. “I wrap the boxes as if they’re Christmas presents.”

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With no assistance other than individual donations, in April alone, Crump ordered and sent out over 70 pairs of sneakers, purchased at full price, to nurses all around the country. At the time of this posting, she’s attempting to raise $15,000, which will provide 200 sneakers for 200 nurses.

“I don’t plan on stopping really until I get to a point where I’m not receiving enough donations to really cover sneakers in a large scale—and even then, there’s really no reason to stop to me, even once the COVID-19 crisis is over; if it can really be over,” she says. “And then, even beyond that, I think we’ve gotten to the space where we’ve realized how important all health care officials are and essential workers are. Their experience, it’s not going to change what they’ve gone through just because it’s over. So, I think that they are always going to be deserving of new sneakers. If we could provide them, that’d be ideal.”

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Obviously, it’d also be ideal to get Nike onboard with her initiative (c’mon, Nike!). Crump has yet to reach any decision-makers at the brand, but the effort seems ripe for an alliance.

“I am still working on that because any form of participation on Nike’s part would be greatly appreciated,” she says. “I think that any form will maximize the awareness of what we’re doing, and that’s going to both bring us more donations and bring us more nurses that we can accommodate. So, if that happens, that would be certainly the icing on the cake to this whole experience,” she added.

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But in the meantime, Crump is counting the campaign’s blessings.

“Honestly, we get good news every day,” she says. “I get a $1000 donor and I’m like, ‘Wow, people really understand what we’re doing.’”

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And along with Nikes, what message would Crump send to those on the frontlines?

“The message that I’d have for them is that the world is really still operating and getting close to normal—whatever normal will be for us once all of this is done—specifically because of them,” she says. “We think of essential workers and what the world needs to run right now, but really they are that foundation. They are the bloodline—they are the heart, the brain, all of it—they’re the people that are really keeping us all alive.”

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If you know a nurse who is on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis, please e-mail nikesfornurses@gmail.com; for information on how to volunteer, or other inquiries, contact nfn.people@gmail.com. To check the progress of the campaign or donate, visit Nikes for Nurses.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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