Two brothers teamed up on a kindness crusade, creating something out of this world - all to pay it forward. And they got a little more than they bargained for.
Thirteen-year-old Zachary Pamboukas from Maple Valley, Washington has published not one, but two superhero comic books. He co-wrote them with his older brother, Cristo.
The day Zachary received a hard copy of “The Bionic Kid” is one he says he won’t forget.
“I’m just like, speechless,” Zachary said. “It’s in my hands, it’s just like the coolest thing,” he said.
The story stars a regular kid, also named Zachary, born with a limb difference - in this case, with one hand.
“The story is about a kid with a limb difference who deals with a bully and gets a bionic arm and some cool super powers along the way,” Zachary said.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that the bionic kid’s origin story is inspired by reality.
“Were you ever bullied growing up?” KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun asked.
“It was more so just a bunch of kids just asking, ‘What happened to your hand? What happened to your hand?’ And Christo, he would always just stand up for me,” Zachary said.
“On the parental side, it’s a little scary when you’re taking your personal story and putting it out there,” said Niko Pamboukas, Zachary and Christo’s father.
When Zach was in first grade, he got a prosthetic or “bionic arm,” made by “Limbitless Solutions,” a nonprofit organization at the University of Central Florida. The company provides free prosthetics for kids.
Zachary’s parents surprised him at Christmas in 2015 with a box under the tree.
“I’m like, ‘what is this? This is just crazy, it’s like a hand!’” Zachary remembered. It was a Spiderman-themed hand modeled after his favorite superhero.
Zachary says these days, he sees the bionic arm as a tool.
“If I needed to carry multiple grocery bags, I can use that,” Zachary said.
He’s now upgraded to arm number two – and it’s undeniably pretty awesome. Zach was able to pick out the design himself.
“The base part is the Master Chief (Halo) and the colors are Optimus Prime (Transformers) because they’re both great leaders,” Zachary said.
But he says the best part about the 3D-printed arm goes beyond function.
“Instead of asking, ‘What happened to your hand?,’ They ask me, ‘Where did you get that?’ It shifts questions just because of the hand,” he said.
He and Christo decided they wanted to help another kid get a bionic arm.
“Some people might not be able to get it, so (we) wanted to raise money to help,” Zachary said.
“So we could pay it forward to the next kid,” Christo said.
Then Zach found out how expensive the arms are – about $10,000 per kid.
“Oh my. So me and Christo we were just brainstorming ideas, like should we make the lemonade stand, or get all the money from our piggy bank,” Zachary said.
“Yeah, I didn’t know how it was going to go,” Christo said, laughing.
That’s when they came up with the idea of writing a comic book.
“As a comic fan I was like, ‘alright, that’s really cool,’” said their dad, Niko. “And they just ran with it,” he said.
The whole family is in the comic, even their pup, Beary.
With help from Limblitless Solutions, the Pamboukas family got the comics illustrated and published.
The first issue came out in 2018, when Zach was 10. The second issue was just released in July 2021.
“Some people, if they make a goal, they could or could not do it; and that was the nervous part,” Zachary said.
But as it goes, kindness attracts kindness, and a couple of celebrities got involved.
Actor Michael Rosenbaum from “Smallville” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2″; and Dominic Sherwood from “Shadow Hunters” and “Modern Family” both helped spread the word about the comic.
“He writes a comic book called ‘The Bionic Kid’ and he’s only 12 years old. And what a sensational young man he is,” said Rosenbaum in a video. Rosenbaum first met the Zach at Megacon in 2019, when Zach had a booth there for The Bionic Kid.
At the end of 2021, the Pamboukas reached their goal, raising $11,000 from donations and comic book sales. A $5,000 donation from Seattle-based company MoxiWorks helped them push past their goal in December.
Zach says that part of it is even cooler than being published.
“I helped get a kid an arm!,” he said.
“Extremely proud,” Niko said.
Two brothers’ idea to deliver an act of kindness is continuing to make a difference all over the world - in 23 countries, no less.
“This is my favorite book, The Bionic Kid. He has one hand like me!” says one kid in a video that the Pamboukas family shared with KIRO 7.
“People who will write in and say ‘Oh my gosh, this is such an amazing story, it really resonated with me.’ I don’t know what to do with that other than just be thankful for it,” Niko said.
By the way, Zachary says his bionic arm does give him some special powers, like a very strong handshake.
But the real power comes from the kid – who has proved that anyone can be a superhero.
You can support Zachary and Christo by getting their comic book at https://thebionickid.com/. All sales go toward helping more kids get prosthetic arms at Limbitless Solutions.
The Pamboukas family doesn’t know yet who the money they raised will help, but Limbitless said it will benefit a child in central Florida.
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