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Amazing Kids! of the Month

Amazing Kids! is proud to highlight the Amazing Kids! of the Month!

Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things. We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements.

Amazing Kid! of the Month for February, 2009:
Nicholas Marriam, age 15, and Shelby McKnew, age 14; Co-Founders, The Nickelby Project; U.S.A.

The Nickelby Project, Amazing Kids! of the Month, Feburary 2009!

Quotes of the Month

“When I was sick, I thought I'd never want to be involved with anything that had to do with cancer; but once I saw the look on kids' faces when we handed out the gifts [in children's hospitals], I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”

Nicholas Marriam, Age 15
Co-Founder, Nickelby Project

“Just to know there is someone out there caring for them — it means a whole lot to the kids and the parents.”

Shelby McKnew, Age 14
Co-founder, Nickelby Project


Our February 2009 Amazing Kids! of the Month:

Thousands of children around the world are hospitalized each year due to a variety of illnesses. In addition to the debilitating effects of the disease and the related treatment, these children often feel lonely and isolated as they are unable to attend school, meet friends and do the other regular activities that most of us take for granted.

Nicholas Marriam was one such kid, having successfully fought a battle with cancer after being diagnosed at the age of six. Once he got better, he wanted to do something to help other kids going through similar experiences in hospitals across America. So, together with his cousin Shelby McKnew, he started the Nickelby Project, bringing smiles to sick children in hospitals by visiting them and giving them gift bags filled with toys and other goodies to brighten their lives.

Read more below about Amazing Nick and Amazing Shelby and be inspired to find a way that you can make a difference in 2009 and beyond!

Don't forget: If you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it! Simply complete our Amazing Kids! of the Month award online nomination form, visit our AKOM nomination information page ( or email us!

Table of Contents

Meet Nicholas and Shelby- Amazing Cousins with a Big Heart
Shelby McKnew, age 14 and Cousin Nicholas Marriam, age 15;
Co-Founders, The Nickelby Project
Amazing Kids! of the Month, Nicholas Marriam and Shelby McKnew, the Nickelby Project; Helping Bring Smiles to Hospitalized Children; U.S.A.

Nicholas Marriam of Clayton, North Carolina, knows first hand how it is to be sick for long periods of time. He was only six years old when he suddenly had trouble breathing, complained of stomach aches and got tired easily. His parents, Angel and Fred, took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center where he was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma. For the next two years, Nick and his parents endured chemotherapy, spinal taps, shots and pills. He was in the hospital so much that he missed two entire years of school and was very lonely while in the hospital. When he was home, he couldn't get out much or have many visitors while he was healing.

A couple of incidents during this time made a lasting impression on Nick. "He remembered," says his mom, Angel, "that when a friend of mine brought me a gift basket containing soap and shampoo, I cried."

“I thought, 'Boy, a simple bag of stuff can sure make somebody happy,’” says Nick of the incident.
The other lasting impression which Nick remembered was the love and support of his cousin Shelby McKnew, who has been his friend forever. When Nick was vulnerable to infection and had to be isolated, she would gather kids from the neighborhood and they'd sit on the deck outside the sliding-glass door at Nick's home. She'd have one walkie-talkie, Nick would have the other, and they'd all play games together -- with Nick safely inside his glass shield, but still part of the gang. 

As his health improved, Nick attended a camp for children with cancer and there he learned of the Make Difference Day - the fourth Saturday of October each year, set aside for people to do nice things for other people. Nick returned from the camp with a mission: With the help of his mother, his third-grade class, employees at Coca-Cola, TGI Friday's and the Washington Capitals hockey team, to name a few, he gathered $7,500 in supplies, enough for 166 gift bags with toiletries, gift certificates, disposable cameras, movie passes, hockey tickets and pizza coupons. 

"On the way to the hospital," Nick says, "the whole entire back of the van and the middle of the van were stacked full of stuff. It was like there was a tornado of Make A Difference Day bags!" he says.

Dressed in a doctor’s costume, Nick had the day of his life delivering bags to eager boys and girls and to their exhausted, worried parents. "The emotions all started flooding back to my husband and me," Angel says. "We watched the parents' faces as the kids' eyes lit up at the sight of visitors bearing gifts. The looks of hope that this will be their child someday, full of strength, with a head of hair. We all cried -- we all smiled."

"I see a little bit of me inside of them," Nick says. "[When I was sick], I was very isolated and I couldn't talk to any of my friends. It was very tough."

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The Nickelby Project

Amazing Nick and Shelby, posing with just a sampling of the thousands of items
they've donated to help bring cheer to sick children in hospitals
Amazing Kids! of the Month, February 2009:  Nicholas Marriam and Shelby McKnew, co-founders the Nickelby Project, posing with some of the toys they've collected to donate to help sick children in hospitals across America

Motivated by his own illness, Nicholas joined his cousin Shelby who lives in Maryland and started the Nickelby Project, to deliver a little hope and smiles to hospitalized children. Apart from providing gift bags to help ease the worries and fears of children with a chronic or life threatening illness and providing hospital and educational support, the Nickelby Project also gives away scholarships to childhood cancer survivors going to college or secondary school in any field of study. They also have another scholarship that is designed for adults who plan to go into a Pediatric Oncology field of study.

“Just to know there is someone out there caring for them — it means a whole lot to the kids and the parents,” said Shelby.

Shelby McKnew, Amazing Kid! of the Month, February 2009, posing with some of the toys donated to the Nickelby Project, to be donated to sick children in hospitals across America
Amazing Shelby displaying some of the donated items to be given to children in hospitals

Nick and Shelby work hard on their project. They conducts fundraisers, write grant proposals, shops and then assembles and delivers gift bags to pediatric wards at hospitals in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It's their way of bringing hope and encouragement to others battling serious illnesses.

"A lot of the parents cry," Nick says. "And the kids – seeing the kids go through it is just as good as the parents' reaction."

Nicholas and Shelby standing next to their Nickelby Project delivery van
Nick and Shelby of the Nickelby Project standing next to their delivery van, ready to make another delivery of toys and gift bags to sick children in hospitals across America

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Awards, Recognition and Dreams for an Amazing Future

“People find hope in Nick,” says Shelby’s mom, Sheila, “because he was in that position, and look at him now — with a full head of hair and able to talk and hug other kids.”

Nick, Shelby and their project has won its share of awards and recognition. In 2002, they won the National $10,000 Make a Difference Day Award funded by the Paul Newman Foundation.  You can read about this special honor on the website at:

Last year, in 2008, Nick was “floored” to learn that Nickelby was awarded a $10,000 grant from McDonald’s for their gift bag program.  Nick commented:

“Shelby and I are having huge fun making this money work and last to touch as many kids as we can. It is a great surprise and lessens the tension of the summer we usually have, trying to find support for the upcoming year.”

Last summer, 2008, now former President George W. Bush took notice of Nick's spirit of volunteerism by awarding the Clayton teenager the President's Volunteer Service Award.  

"Five years ago, when I was sick, I never thought I'd meet the president," Nick says. "I never thought about that."  

You can watch news video about Nick’s visit with former President Bush here:

Nick was invited by Wayne Brady, host of the Emmy-winning "Wayne Brady Show" to appear on his show.  Wayne Brady was so impressed by Nick's work, he said:

“There's nothing like being embarrassed into action while you sit at home and watch these people [like Nick] who have gone out of their way to volunteer. Maybe it will [give you a] kick and make you say, 'Oh, I need to be a little more proactive.' I hope it will kick-start me a little bit, too,” he said before featuring Nick on his show.

Nick and Shelby dream of being able to reach children’s wards in hospitals in every state in the U.S. However, continuing to keep their foundation running to help even more sick children is a constant challenge. While they continue to receive donated items to stuff in the bags they donate to the children in the pediatric wards of hospitals, the foundation often still much pay for the shipping costs, which can add up.  What more, they will continue to need donated items on an ongoing basis, to fill the 250 bags which the foundation gives to each hospital visited. Trying to find items that interest all age groups, including teenagers, can also be a challenge.

Despite these challenges, Nick and Shelby are determined to meet their goal of expanding their donations to include hospitals in every state.  If you would like to help Nick and Shelby launch their dream of reaching hospitals in every state in the U.S., you can contribute to their amazing cause by visiting the Nickelby Project foundation’s donation page on their website at:

For all those who have already donated and plan to continue their support, Nick expressed his deep appreciation in a recent email he sent to supporters: 

“I want to thank everyone again for all of the support. We had a crazy month in the best way. I sat at the beach and reflected about how lucky I am to even be here, but to have the friends and family and support that I have, to make my dreams of helping hospitalized kids become a reality is beyond what I could even express.  Shelby and I and everyone involved in Nickelby worked very hard, very, very hard, to finally see some progress, and it fills my heart to know that it will be easier to help these kids thanks to all of you!”

Amazing Kids! wishes Amazing Nick and Amazing Shelby continued success in their important work, bringing hope, smiles and joy to sick children in hospitals across America!

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Related Links

The Nickelby Project website To learn more about Shelby and Nick's amazing work, and to get involved or make a donation to the Nickelby Project, visit the Nickelby Project website:

USA Weekend's "Make a Difference Day" website Learn more about, and get involved in, USA Today's Make a Difference Day, happening this year on October 24, 2009:

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A Special Message from Amazing Kids! for all you kids:

It's no secret...every person has an "amazing-ness" inside of them, just waiting to be discovered. (Sometimes we just need a little help in finding out what that "amazing-ness" is!)

If you are doing some amazing things too, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your amazing accomplishments, so we can tell the world just how amazing you are! We are always looking for new stories. And don't be shy! We'd love to hear from you!

Here's an idea you might want to try:


If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, why not tell them what you think is special about them? Maybe you can be the one to help them uncover their own special talent.

Amazing Kids! is looking for teens to be Amazing Teen Volunteers and Ambassadors. If you'd like to join Amazing Kids! in helping to spread the word, please email us at:


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