The wonderful story of a teen who found his place as his high school's mascot.

'He's not afraid of crowds anymore.'

In Nevada, Iowa, Friday night isn't the same without the school's furriest fan: Cubbie.

The human inside the Cubbie costume, however, wasn't always so cheerful among big groups of people. In fact, Caleb Popejoy used to despise big groups of people.


Caleb has autism spectrum disorder. And just a few years ago, the last place you'd find him is relishing in the sideline spotlight.

For him, partaking in large group activities wasn't a fun affair.

"He was terrified just to walk into a big crowd in the gym," his father, Keith Popejoy, told KCCI 8 News of his high school senior son. "A group like this would have scared him."

"I get Cubbie on, come out here, and give people high fives and hugs." — Caleb Popejoy

It's not uncommon for people with autism to be in Caleb's boat. For many people living with it, autism can affect their sensory system. So things like loud noises, certain fabrics, or different smells can cause unpleasant experiences.

So being Cubbie? Under the Friday night lights? In front of the whole town? For Caleb, something like that would usually be way out of the question.

But he'd spotted Cubbie's mask in the school's office as a freshman, and something just ... clicked.

He took an interest in becoming his school's mascot, and — although his parents were hesitant at first — the rest is mascot history.

"We were there, right by his side, when he first did it," Caleb's mom, Lana Popejoy, told KCCI 8 News. "We thought he was going to be nervous."

But that wasn't the case.

"I get Cubbie on, come out here and give people high fives and hugs," Caleb explained with a smile.

The best part? Being Cubbie has made those big crowds a whole lot less scary for Caleb — even without the mask.

“He's gotten used to people now," Lana said, noting the transformation she's seen in him since he began high school. "He can greet people, he can talk to people. He's not afraid of crowds anymore."

The whole experience has made Caleb feel "excited and happy" (which goes without saying, if you saw that look on his face).

Sometimes it takes putting on a costume to help us feel like our true selves.


Watch KCCI 8 News' coverage of Caleb's story below:

More
via Twitter / Soraya

There is a strange right-wing logic that suggests when minorities fight for equal rights it's somehow a threat to the rights already held by those in the majority or who hold power.

Like when the Black Lives Matter movement started, many on the right claimed that fighting for black people to be treated equally somehow meant that other people's lives were not as valuable, leading to the short-lived All Lives Matter movement.

This same "oppressed majority" logic is behind the new Straight Pride movement which made headlines in August after its march through the streets of Boston.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

For most of us, the hypothetical question of whether we would stick with a boyfriend or girlfriend through the trials of cancer and the treatments is just that – a hypothetical question. We would like to think we would do the right thing, but when Max Allegretti got the chance to put his money where mouth is, he didn't hesitate for a second.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular