Zoi Kokinos has never met Hudson Lambert. But in 15 days, 6-year-old Zoi rode her bike 100 miles, with every mile dedicated to raising funds to help the 7-year-old whose life has been upended by a …
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Zoi Kokinos has never met Hudson Lambert. But in 15 days, 6-year-old Zoi rode her bike 100 miles, with every mile dedicated to raising funds to help the 7-year-old whose life has been upended by a rare disease.
Hudson has a long way to go in treating his rumination syndrome, a disease that renders him unable to keep food down and has made him the target of school bullies for his frequent vomiting.
But Zoi has a long way to go, too — she plans to keep riding every day for 30 days, sticking to a commitment she made with her dad to do what they can to help bring Hudson some relief.
“Hopefully it can help him with his stomach,” the Littleton girl said. “Then maybe he can go to a movie or have some fun so he can forget about his sickness for a bit.”
Zoi's charity ride was the brainchild of her dad Ray, who works with Hudson's dad Jeremy at Your Castle Real Estate in Denver. The staff planned a “Tough Mudder” fundraising race for the Lamberts, but Ray's bad back meant he couldn't participate.
Instead, Ray — who is also the founder of Go Play of Colorado, a 501(c)3 that organizes fundraisers for charities — posed the idea of a charity bike ride to Zoi. The initial plan was to ride 100 miles in 30 days, but Zoi, with a shiny new bike, blasted through that goal in 15 days in August. The pair change up their riding route daily, sometimes traversing the Mary Carter Greenway or the High Line Canal.
She raised $371 by day 15, mostly from online donations, but some in cash from other bike riders along local trails that she chats up.
“Zoi's been extraordinary,” Ray said. “She's tough, determined, and game to try new things. She's got that child's notion: `sure, I can do this.' She doesn't complain.”
The fundraising totals might not be stupendous, Ray said, but it's not about that.
“It's about teaching Zoi to be committed, and to think of others,” Ray said. “And it's something she'll always remember that we'll have together.”
In Henderson, 26 miles north of Littleton, Hudson is an energetic second-grader who plays basketball and football, and recently broke his arm climbing fences.
But much of his time is spent in exam rooms and therapists' offices, trying to come up with effective treatments for the rare disease that makes him throw up as much as 50 times a day.
Hudson sometimes keeps a bucket by his desk at school, said his dad Jeremy, and he might make dozens of trips to the bathroom in the course of a school day. Sometimes he doesn't go at all.
“Some of the kids call me Barf Boy,” Hudson said. “My mom and dad said to tell them: `Stop. Just because I have a medical condition doesn't mean you can make fun of me. My disease doesn't define me.'”
The disease is partly physiological and partly psychological, said Keli Lambert, Hudson's mom.
A travel agent, Keli works from home. She's thought about returning to full-time work, but Hudson sees so many doctors and misses so much school that she needs to be home, she said. Doctors recently found a lesion on Hudson's brain, which will require regular MRIs.
Hudson's doctors sent him to see specialists in Ohio. Jeremy's work insurance didn't cover out-of-state doctors, so the family switched him to Keli's insurance — only to find out hers didn't cover as much as they thought. The Lamberts pay nearly $700 a month to insure Hudson and their 12-year-old daughter, but Hudson's bills are piling up on top of that.
'Keep going, of course'
“We were resistant to getting help at first,” Keli said. “But it's been so comforting to have people rally around us. I can't express enough gratitude.”
Hudson will start new therapies soon, Jeremy said, and medication means he can keep enough food down to keep growing.
“We're extremely blessed that Hudson only has what he has, and that it's not life threatening,” Jeremy said.
Zoi's ride is inspiring, Jeremy said.
“If a little girl will do this at age six, imagine what she'll do at 21,” Jeremy said.
On Aug. 24, Zoi and Ray passed the hundred-mile mark on their rides, only halfway through their 30-day plan.
Asked what she'd do next, Zoi seemed to find the question almost silly.
“Well, keep going, of course,” she said.
Visit denvergoplay.com to donate to Zoi's Ride for Hudson.
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