A 10-year-old boy who was bullied for his “Iron Man” costume is going viral for his superhero courage.
Last week, Jill Struckman dressed up her son, Evan, as Tony Stark for a Halloween party at his school in Missouri. Proud of her work, she snapped photos of the boy and shared them on Facebook for their friends and family to see.
In the pictures, the fifth-grader looked dashing, wearing oversized sunglasses, a pinstriped vest, and even a goatee.
“Evan loves getting dressed up — and he was especially excited that day,” Jill said. “It was hard to get his makeup on straight because he was smiling so much.”
Evan looked awesome in his Halloween costume and pulled off the character’s style perfectly. He was so thrilled to be dressed up as Tony Stark that he practically ran to the school bus that morning. However, the boy’s excitement soon turned into embarrassment when he stepped onto the bus and was told by his classmates that “he looked stupid.”
“20 minutes after he got on the bus, I got a phone call from school letting me know he was in the office and some kids had said mean things to him,” Jill recalled. “He wanted to be picked up and he was really, really upset.”
Evan was so hurt by the other kids’ comments that he went straight to the bathroom after getting off the bus to wash off all his makeup. He also didn’t want to stay for the Halloween party he was once looking forward to.
Jill said it was the first time she had heard his youngest get that heartbroken over something someone had said.
“He’s the kid who will go to picture day in a tuxedo or business suit, and usually lets things roll right off his shoulders,” she said.
Jill picked her son up from school and was met with a teary-eyed Evan. She decided to open up about the incident on Facebook to raise awareness about the effects of bullying, posting a photo of the boy looking all sad.
“Here’s what my little Tony Stark looks like now,” she wrote. “We both have swollen eyes from crying and are on our way to try to find ice cream. Kids need to understand that WORDS hurt.”
The mother-and-son went to a Starbucks, where they talked about what happened and how Evan felt.
Jill said Evan knew he looked great, but he let what the other kids said get to him. She reassured him and told him he looked awesome, then asked if he wanted to go back to avoid missing the party. The lad said yes.
Within an hour, Evan was back to his confident self as Jill redid his makeup.
“He was a little scared, but as soon as we walked in the office door, all the ladies, who hadn’t seen his makeup, said he was so cute,” Jill said. “He got a lot of positive attention right away… and by the time he got off the bus later that day, he was just happy as could be.”
The mom noted that the bullies had apologized to Evan and had been dealt with by the school.
As Jill reflected on the experience, she said that she has never been prouder of Evan for returning to school and keeping his head up, despite the hurtful words said to him.
“Evan even learned from this. He’s never gonna be that kid who hurts someone else’s feelings,” she said. “He’s normally not affected by what other people think and say… so the fact that it bothered him so badly just broke our hearts.”
Jill’s post went viral, but she didn’t expect it would be received that way. She apologized to Evan for sharing such a personal moment, but the kid told her it was okay that she shared it because it “shows people what it looks like whenever you get bullied.”
The mother of four hopes that other parents and children can learn from Evan’s story.
“Words are important. I almost didn’t write ‘bullying’ in the post because he wasn’t physically hurt, but it does hurt. Words hurt, they matter,” Jill said. “If you see it happening, stand up for the kid who’s getting teased.”
Some people have offered to donate money, but Jill told them that Evan doesn’t really need it. She encouraged them to donate to a charity or do a good deed instead.
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