As a child, he told people he was run over by a trailer rather than admit to having a disability.
But last week, in front of friends, family and co-workers, Max Cole stood proud.
The 31-year-old caregiver from Whangarei was awarded the Unsung Hero award for service to the Disabled Community.
The award was created by the Cerebral Palsy Society to mark World CP Day on October 5.
Mr Cole, a caregiver for CCS, was the first recipient of the national award.
"It's just such an eye-opener seeing these people in our community that dedicate their everyday lives to helping others," Cerebral Palsy Society partnership manager Martin Pepperell said.
"To see someone like Max who has a disability and gives his all to helping others is so inspiring. It just shows that it's all about our ability, not our disability."
Mr Cole, who has mild cerebral palsy affecting the movement to one side of his body, is a caregiver for people with more significant disabilities than himself.
He works up to 50 hours a week, in a variety of shifts.
"Some of these people have no one else," Mr Cole said.
"I enjoy talking to them, hearing their stories and keeping them company."