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:

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

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Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

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