READFIELD — Nicholas Maxim is just like any other fifth grader. He wants to grow up to be Tom Brady. He loves writing comic strips. He refers to his best friend on the planet as “Bud.”

But in Nick’s case, unpacking life without anything below your elbows but empty space, just being a normal little boy makes people take notice.

“He can do things I can do, and things I can’t” said Nick’s aforementioned bud and fellow Readfield Elementary School fifth grader, Quinn Hyland. “His handwriting is better than most of the people here.”

Nick’s penmanship is so good, in fact, his teachers at Readfield couldn’t help but submit his entry to a national handwriting contest held each year by Zaner-Bloser, an Ohio-based company that offers educational programs and services.

The company received more than 200,000 entries, but Nick’s stood out like a telephone pole in a haystack.

“His entry was fabulous considering he writes with no hands,” said Readfield Elementary School Principle Cheryl Hasenfus. “When (Zaner-Bloser) saw Nick’s entry and letter, they decided to start a whole new category, the Nicholas Maxim Award.”

The first winner of the eponymous award was presented a trophy Monday during a school-wide assembly.

“The people in Ohio loved your story,” Sean Reardon of Zaner-Bloser told Nick in front of more than a hundred Readfield students and educators. “They think you’re an inspiration to everybody.”

But the thing that makes the 10-year-old Nick so inspirational, that chokes up teachers with years of experience when talking about him, is he never wakes up wanting to be an inspiration.

Nick was born with arms that end just above where his elbows should be and and has one leg that ends just above the knee. He never expects anyone to make a fuss, though, and learned to write using his forearms to hold the pencil because that’s what kids do.

Besides, it turns out Nick likes to write, especially descriptive stories of actual events. And he and his bud Quinn like to make up comic storylines and pictures and show them off to each other.

“He is who he is and does what he does not to get attention,” said his sister, Sarah Maxim. “It’s for me to see him being who he is that’s an inspiration.”

Nick prefers to let others talk about him, but he couldn’t hide his excitement when a teacher told him kids across the country will now earn the award named after him.

“Maybe somebody related to Tom Brady will win it,” Quinn said, excited. Nick smiled at the possibility.

Nick said he didn’t know his paper had been submitted to the contest, and had no idea Monday’s assembly was anything special until he was sitting before all of his schoolmates. “I liked it,” he said. “It was a big surprise.”

Nick said he never set out to win a contest.

“I just started writing,” he said. “I thought, OK, I think I’ll write some more.”

Occupational therapist Dianna Schmidt knows there will be a time when Nick has to write longer papers, so she is trying to get Nick accustomed to a computer program that will turn what he speaks into printed words. So far Nick hasn’t taken to the machine. He also has little use for the prosthetic arms that were fitted for him.

“He hasn’t worn them for months because he’s much more independent without them,” Schmidt said. “He’s absolutely amazing.”

Nick takes notes in class, uses scissors and does the little things, like opening milk cartons. He spends a lot of time turning down would-be helpers.

“He tries to do everything himself,” Schmidt said.

Quinn had to think when asked if he ever remembers Nick saying he can’t do something. Finally, Quinn had to admit he has.

“I’ve probably heard him say I can’t like once or twice,’ Quinn said. “But it’s not something he can’t do, it’s just something he needs permission to do.”

Nick’s dad, Everett Maxim, knows there are some things his son will never get to do, like being Tom Brady or a professional baseball player, but the cans will far outweigh the cannot.

“We don’t all get to be Tom Brady, but we all have special things we can do,” Everett Maxim said. “We just have to try everything to find out. Some day he’s going to run and climb rock walls.”

Nick recently had surgery to remove the kneecap from his left leg, which will allow him to be fitted with a prosthetic leg that will allow to realize his dream of running with his friends.

Still, Nick knows things like running and writing would be easier if he had arms and legs like his classmates. One year, as he was going with Laura Reville, a fourth-grade teacher at Readfield, to see Santa Claus, Nick asked Reville if he could ask for new arms and legs.

Nick wondered why Santa couldn’t help.

“God made you the way you are for a reason, and even Santa has to follow God’s rules,” Reville recalled telling Nick. “I think we’ve seen here today why God made you the way you are.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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