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Nike teams up with Chicago Park District for new shirt designs

Joshua Cook

Joshua Cook shows off a t-shirt he helped design. | Maria de la Guardia/ Sun-Times

For the last couple of years, South Side natives’ Joshua Cook and Darius Davis have spent their summers home from college working as recreational leaders for the Chicago Park District’s summer day camp.

“I started off in the park district as a kid, then I ended up being a junior counselor,” Cook said. As a recreational leader, “It’s like coming back full circle because I now coach the kids.”

For the last three years, Nike’s Swoosh Summer Academy has teamed up with the park district to train recreational leaders so they can promote a healthier lifestyle among children. This year, they also had recreational leaders work with local artists to design a new shirt that could be used by day camp staff next year.

The parks were divided into three divisions, North, Central and South. Each  held a competition for next year’s summer camp T-shirt design.

The shirt designed by Cook and Davis was picked as Central division winner. Each division’s winning shirt is slated to be worn at the camps in its area, pending final approval.

It has not been determined who will wear the shirts — just the recreational leaders or all the kids too.

“When I got the email from Nike, I jumped at the opportunity and started drawing designs right away,” Davis said.

The design Cook and Davis came up with features the Chicago skyline merged with the Nike swoosh. It’s colored in streaks of yellow resembling the texture of a crayon drawing. The four red stars of the Chicago flag are on the right shoulder to symbolize leadership, Davis said. “We’re rec leaders, so we are leading the kids every day in activities, in sports and in daily life.”

This program was a first for Cook and Davis, who are aspiring artist themselves. They’d never worked together, but instantly developed a chemistry, and they’re proud of the result. They wanted their shirt to mean something for future recreational leaders.

“You want to have something you can wear when you are working out or going to class. We wanted to make sure that rec leaders were proud of wearing the shirt we designed.”

Artist Louis de Guzman collaborated with them on the design. He got involved with Nike through the art scene in Chicago and has worked with the kids at the park district on Nike’s behalf before. This year they came together to see how they can give back to the community on a creative end.

“We were like, ‘Let’s get some leaders and have them spend a day at the Nike office, and bring their ideas to life,” Guzman said. “Have them tell their story through their t-shirt design.”

Another goal, he said, was “to really show these kids it’s not only about the cool materialistic things or the number of followers you have, but it is about the heart you have.”

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.