Nicholas Marriam, 15, of Clayton, N.C., a freshman at West Johnston High School in Benson, brings a smile and a gift to sick children in a program he started after spending two years in the hospital fighting cancer. Nicholas was just 6 years old when he was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. "I felt very scared and saw my parents cry a lot," he said. "I fought hard and finally won my battle, but did not want the kids who were still struggling to feel alone."
Nicholas began collecting games and toys from friends and businesses to bring with him when he went back to visit kids in the hospital where he had been treated. "The feeling was overwhelming," he recalled. "I saw so many kids smile and laugh, I knew I wanted to do this all of the time!" After his family moved from Maryland to North Carolina, Nicholas formed a nonprofit foundation to celebrate five years of remission, took his program to hospitals in the Raleigh-Durham area, and recruited his cousin back in Maryland to continue his hospital visits there. Nicholas now organizes fund-raisers and uses money from summer jobs and grants to purchase the toys he leaves behind on his hospital visits. He also does some public speaking, manages a board of directors, and handles his foundation's paperwork. "It's the hardest thing I have ever done," he said. "But I know it will make a difference to a child laying in a hospital somewhere who is scared and lonely."