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Maine Fifth-Grader Born Without Hands Wins Penmanship Award

Apr 7, 2011 – 2:27 PM
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Susanna Baird Contributor

Nicholas Maxim loves football (the Patriots), baseball (the Red Sox) and writing.

"It started with coloring," Terri Maxim, Nicholas' mother, told AOL News. Crayons gave way to pens and pencils. "He does that in his spare time. It's not typical. He watches them and keeps up with the sports, but his true love, besides football and baseball, is writing."

When 10-year-old Nicholas writes, he holds his pencil between his two upper arms. The brown-haired fifth-grader was born without lowers arms or hands. He's also missing one knee and lower leg. He's looking forward to running alongside his friends on a new prosthetic leg in the near future, but he prefers to leave his prosthetic arms at home.

Traveling the halls of Readfield (Maine) Elementary School in a wheelchair, a determined Nicholas employs his upper arms to open milk cartons, use scissors, draw comics and write out his schoolwork.

Readfield Principal Cheryl Hasenfus was so impressed with Nicholas' writing, she entered a sample in educational publisher Zaner-Bloser's National Handwriting Contest.

"We submitted his entry because we felt his penmanship was amazing considering he completes most of his work without using his prostheses," Hasenfus said in a Zaner-Bloser press release.

Zaner-Bloser staff members were so impressed with Nicholas' writing, they created a special contest category and named it for Nicholas.

"When our team saw Nicholas' handwriting, we were just amazed," Zaner-Bloser President Bob Page said in a press release. "Since we started this contest 20 years ago, we've been pleased to get a great response that increases every year, and Nicholas inspired us to encourage all students to participate."

More than 200,000 students entered the Ohio-based company's contest this year. Zaner-Bloser staff hope the new Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship will encourage disabled children to toss their pens into the ring.

Zaner-Bloser will announce winners of the regular competition in May. The company teamed with Readfield school officials to surprise Nicholas with the Nicholas Maxim Award at a school assembly this week. Terri and Nicholas' dad, Everett, proudly watched their son receive the inaugural award.

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Terri said her son's success is due to his remarkable perseverance.

"He has a very high work ethic. He just doesn't give in," she told AOL News. "It never ceases to amaze me what he can do."

What amazes Nicholas is all the attention he's received.

This morning, he asked Terri, "'Mom what's the big deal?' I just entered a contest."

Nicholas' new trophy suggests he's done a whole lot more.

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