Maine Boy Born Without Hands Honored for Penmanship

READFIELD, Maine -- A 10-year-old boy who earned a spot in a national penmanship contest despite being born without hands is in a league of his own, contest organizers say.

Fifth-grader Nicholas Maxim, who writes by holding a pencil between his arms, impressed the judges enough that they created a new category for students with disabilities. Maxim received the first Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship this week at a school assembly.

The student at Readfield Elementary School is known for his penmanship, even though it's not easy for him because he was born without hands or lower arms.

Judges who sifted through 200,000 handwriting entries in the annual contest run by Zaner-Bloser, of Columbus, Ohio, were so impressed that they decided a new category was warranted to inspire others.

Maxim, who said he likes writing and illustrating comic strips, didn't know his paper had been submitted to the contest, so Monday's school assembly in his honor came as a surprise.

"We submitted his entry because we felt his penmanship was amazing considering he completes most of his work without using his prostheses," said Principal Cheryl Hasenfus.

Zaner-Bloser estimates that more than 2.5 million students have participated in the handwriting contest during its 20-year history. The 2011 winners will be announced next month in Florida.

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