HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- No one is more prepared for the Fourth of July than Owen Hicks. Owen spreads his patriotism through song. But when his vocal cords are resting after belting out the Star Spangled Banner, Owen carries another tune. He advocates for others, especially people with disabilities.
"I will be there. If you need me or help. No matter where I go, I will always be there for those people," Owen said.
Throughout his four years at Godwin High School in Henrico's West End, Owen embraced his challenges.
"I love life because I am a survivor. I have a disability called Downs Syndrome," Owen explained.
After graduating high school, Owen is working toward a college degree at George Mason University. Along with academics, Mason Life teaches young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities life skills.
"I’m more responsible now and learning to live on my own," he said. "Trying to do things on my own."
Owen's mom Vicki said Mason Life has been transforming her son.
"It gives me hope and gives me comfort for his future to one day live independently," she said. "Owen is thriving and it is really great to see him do that."
While the program is costly, about double the normal in-state tuition, the rewards are priceless.
"You should always believe in yourself. And that is what confidence means to me," Owen said.
While Owen’s family figures out how to pay for his sophomore year, the 20-year-old college student is enjoying summer with best friends.
"He is just a ball of energy and happy guy. I’m glad to know him," friend Liam Spiers said. "It just means that I have someone who will support me in everything. He’s got my back and I’ve got his. He is one of my best friends for sure."
Owen Hicks is a young man with a bright future and a booming voice who promises never to change his tune when it comes to helping others.
"Giving up is the wrong answer. You should always keep on trying. No matter what you do just keep on trying," he said.
Owen would like nothing more than to return to George Mason for his sophomore year in the fall, but his family is having trouble finding the money.
Click here if you would like to help Owen financially.
In an effort to help Nick and his family, several Richmond restaurants have pledged to donate a portion of their sales -- Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30 -- to his tuition fund.
The following restaurants are participating: The Daily Kitchen and Bar in Carytown, East Coast Provisions, The Hill Cafe, Pearl Raw Bar, The Hard Shell Downtown and The Hard Shell Bellgrade, Pasture, Comfort, Osaka Sushi River Road, Boulevard Burger and Brew, Wong Gonzalez, Foo Dog: Asian Street Food, Fat Dragon Chinese Kitchen and Bar, Wild Ginger, The Luncheonette and The Luncheonette - Northside
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.