CLAYTON, N.C. — Nick Marriam gets his inspiration from bringing a little sunshine into the lives of sick children.
After all, the 15-year-old was once a sick kid himself.
"I see a little bit of me inside of them," Marriam says.
Now, President George W. Bush is taking notice of Marriam's spirit of volunteerism by awarding the Clayton teenager the President's Volunteer Service Award on Friday when the president is in the state for a private Republican fundraiser at developer John Kane's home.
White house officials were keeping secret when and where Marriam and the president will meet.
At age 6, Marriam was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and missed two years of school while he fought the disease. He's now in remission.
"I was very isolated," Marriam, a rising sophomore at West Johnston High School, remembers. "I couldn't talk to any of my friends. It was very tough."
He conducts fundraisers, writes 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 his way of bringing hope and encouragement to others battling serious illnesses.
"A lot of the parents cry," Marriam says. "And the kids – seeing the kids go through it is just as good as the parents' reaction."
"Five years ago, when I was sick, I never thought I'd meet the president," Marriam said. "I never thought about that."
Since March 2002, 600 people across the nation have received the award.
In his January 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush called on Americans to make a difference in their communities through volunteer service. He created the USA Freedom Corps to strengthen and expand volunteer services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 61 million Americans, like Marriam, volunteered in 2006.
As for Marriam, his Nickelby Project recently launched a scholarship program to benefit childhood cancer survivors. He's also in the process of expanding his donations to include hospitals in every state.