Houston, Texas (CNN) — A Houston boy fighting for his own life is helping other children and his actions have earned him recognition as a real-life hero.
Bennett Nester is just three years old. Like most little boys, he loves his trains and his mom.
"He's going through stuff that I can't even fathom at this point," said his mother, Brande Nester.
Bennett was diagnosed with a brain tumor just before Christmas 2011. At the time, he was given a present by two strangers at the hospital who had lost a sibling to cancer: a little bear, which somehow seemed to take a little bit of the pain away.
"He wouldn't let it out of his sight. It was like his one thing to hold onto," said Nester.
His mother said they knew immediately that this was an act of kindness they must return. Last year, they formed "Bennett's Bears" and collected 250 of the stuff animals to give to sick children at area hospitals.
This year, they've collected more than 900.
"They need something like that, every child deserves that," said Nester.
A stranger heard about this selfless act, about this three-year-old who, despite his own struggles, wanted to bring comfort to other children.
That man doesn't want to be identified, but he's a Vietnam veteran, and gave Bennett his bronze star.
"He felt like Bennett was just as big a hero as he was, which is amazing. He's done so much for our country. I can't believe he would want to do something like that for my son," said Nester.
The only condition of receiving the star is that Bennett must do his best to soldier through his treatment and stick around to help pick another hero to whom the award can be passed. And he plans to.