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 James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Annie Bolin on Unsplash

Recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked a lot of conversation and action on the state level over the issue of gun control. But none may be as encouraging as the most recent one, in which 145 CEOs signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take action at their level.

Keep Reading Show less
popular