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A Most Amazing Young Man

by David DeFord

The evening turned out to be nothing like I expected. I would never have dreamed I would end the night inspired and awed by a ten-year-old boy. But I had never encountered a kid like Nick Marriam.

As I sipped root beer while waiting at the airport for any announcement about my delayed flight, I watched two young boys horse around with each other while waiting for their mother to bring their food. They laughed and played like boys having no cares or worries—like kids should play. I suspected they were traveling to some vacation adventure.

As I like to do, I started a conversation with these carefree kids.

“So, where are you boys headed, China or Argentina?”

The ten-year-old answered, “Washington D.C.”

Wanting to be encouraging, I said, “What a great city! The monuments, the White House, the museums, you’ll have a great time. I suppose this is a vacation trip.”

Nick smiled modestly and replied, “Well, actually I’m receiving an award from the Make a Difference Foundation.”

This playful third-grader began to relate his story. At six, he found out he had contracted T-cell Lymphoma. He spent 172 long days and nights in a D.C. children’s hospital. He described the fear and pain of weekly chemotherapy treatments and frequent spinal taps, shots and pills. He told of missing two full years of school. He told the story casually as if he was describing a trip to the library.

As the days, weeks, and months crawled by, he began to feel extremely discouraged, lonely, and bored. And so did his worried mother, who stayed by his side. Would the treatments work? Would Nick improve or decline? What will happen?

One day, Nick’s mother’s friend brought her a small gift basket containing soap and shampoo. The months of fear and loneliness and of holding everything together finally pushed her to her limit. She wept at this simple token of friendship and caring. Her broken heart began to mend. The gesture lifted their spirits greatly.

He fell silent for a moment, looking at the floor—the kindness shown to his mother still filled him with emotion. But now, his story-telling pace quickened; his excitement clearly evident.

After Nick’s cancer went into remission, and his immune system strengthened, he attended a camp for children with cancer. He returned home with a new mission. He told his mother that he had learned of Make Difference Day. Nick explained that the fourth Saturday of October was set aside for people to do nice things for other people. And he wanted to make gift bags for kids and parents in the children’s hospital cancer wing. His mother wept again. Aren’t third graders supposed to think of themselves only? Shouldn’t he be thinking more about Sponge Bob, frogs, and video games?

With the help of his mother, his third-grade class, and some corporations, Nick gathered $7,500 in supplies and filled 166 gift bags filled with toiletries, gift certificates, disposable cameras, movie passes, books, hockey tickets and pizza coupons. Dressed in a doctor’s costume, this child had the day of his life delivering the bags to eager boys and girls and to their exhausted, worried parents.

Nick’s project has turned into an annual event for Make a Difference Day. In addition to the D.C. Children’s Hospital, he now provides gift bags to Duke University Hospital near his new home.

After Nick told me his story, I sat stunned and teary-eyed. I didn’t know what to say. His mother had joined us in the middle of the discussion. She looked so proud of her brave little boy. I read in her face feelings of amazement that this little son of hers, who nearly lost his battle with cancer, has taught so many the true nature of compassion. Obviously, she has seen stunned looks like mine before.

I composed myself, reached into my travel bag and gave him a copy of my book on goal achievement. I encouraged him to let his current achievement be a springboard to higher contributions. Don’t peak at age ten. Keep climbing.

After Nick and his family left to catch their plane to the nation’s capitol, I sat for several minutes wiping my tears on an A&W napkin. I had been in the presence of greatness disguised as a young boy. Not only has Nick’s life been spared, but it has also been greatly enriched. He lifts hundreds of sick children, their parents, and countless people like me fortunate enough to cross his path.

Nick and I have corresponded since that day. I sent him a hundred copies of my book and have begun to organize a similar project for young cancer patients and their parents at a children’s hospital here in Omaha. After all, shouldn’t greatness spread? I want to be like Nick Marriam.

Nick's Letter

My name is Nicholas Marriam and I am 11 years old. It is Make a Difference Day project time again! I am doing very well and have been in remission for 3 years now, WOOHOO! I am going into the 6th grade this fall am working hard on my make a difference day project, it is a lot of hard work for me and my family but it is worth it when we see the kids in the hospital smile. Here is what my project is about to refresh your memory.

A few years ago when I lived in Maryland I started collecting items for gift bags for kids with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. I did this because when I was 6 I was one of those kids, I was diagnosed with T Cell Lymphoma cancer. I was in the hospital a lot and had to grow up very fast and go through a lot of scary things; I got chemotherapy every week, spinal taps, shots, pills and was very sick! I was in the hospital so much I missed two years of school I was very lonely in there and even when I was home I couldn’t get out because of germs.

I have been doing this project every year since I got better. I live in North Carolina now and really need your help! My cousins Shelby and Josh help collect in Maryland for Children’s hospital in DC where I was treated and I also take gift bags for Duke Hospital here in NC where I go now. There are a lot of kids who are sick and lonely in the hospital and these gift bags really help, I spend time with some of the kids and they smile and say thanks for visiting and the parents usually cry because they know people care about what they are going through.

We need your help this year, we try to make 250 gift bags for each hospital and need your support! Here are some ways you or your company could help:
a personal or company donation, gift cards to purchase items, toys, videos, video games, movie passes, toiletries, food coupons, activity books, phone cards, books, crafts or anything to help these kids think of other things than being so sick.

Some companies in the past have provided larger items, gifts or services to be raffled or auctioned off to help raise funds.

Some companies can provide a donation box for their customers to place items in and help spread the word about the project and how they can help.

Another way to help is a Make a Difference project night at the business where a percentage can go toward the project.

I hope to do this every year and add more and more hospitals, and when I am able I want to start a foundation to help kids attend college who have been through treatments like I have. The first year I did this project I was chosen by the Paul Newman Foundation to receive a $10,000.00 donation to my choice of charities. I chose a camp for kids with cancer and the hospital that treated me.

I hope you will help and thanks for your time!!

Nicholas Marriam
289 Reeder Branch Drive
Clayton, NC 27520

Related Offerings

Please make a donation to Nick's project. You can order the following books on Amazon.com and have them sent to Nick's address above. Thanks so much!

Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-4) [BOX SET]
by J. K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré
Click here to order
Reading Level 9-12

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings [BOX SET]
Click here to order
Reading Level 9-12

The Chronicles of Narnia Boxed Set [BOX SET]
by C. S. Lewis, Cliff Nielsen
Click here to order
Reading Level 4-8

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings
by Shel Silverstein
Click here to order
Reading Level 9-12

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
Click here to order
Reading Level 4-8

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst
Click here to order

Reading Level 4-8

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
by Judi Barrett
Click here to order
Reading Level 4-8

To comment on this page, please email ddeford@ordinarypeoplecanwin.com

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