As the year turns to October, stores start offering a wild assortment of fantastical outfits in all shapes and sizes. Enterprising parents and partygoers start pinning costume ideas like mad, and everyone seems to be on the hunt for that perfect, unique, recognizable get-up.
One young man had his sights set on the ultimate cool: Tony Stark. With the help of his mom Jill Struckman, 10-year-old Evan from Missouri gathered all the accessories he’d need to double as the devil-may-care, self-made superhero for his school’s Halloween party.
He had the vest. The glasses. The flat-line stare. The goatee.
“Evan loves getting dressed up — and he was especially excited that day,” Jill told NBC News’ “Today.” “It was hard to get his makeup on straight because he was smiling so much.”
Her little man set off for school, but the bus trip there would prove to be too much, even for Iron Man. Jill got a call within half an hour from the school, telling her that Evan was distraught.
“They said, ‘We have Evan here and he’s really, really upset,’” Jill recalled. “My heart just dropped.”
She posted about the incident on Facebook after helping heal her son’s broken heart and explained what had happened to make her son, who had been so excited, break down in tears.
“Got a call from Evan at school 20 minutes after he left on the bus,” she wrote. “Apparently some kids on the bus (who weren’t even wearing costumes) told him he looked stupid. Evan got to school and immediately went to the bathroom and washed his face.
“When he called he was crying and soooo hurt that He didn’t even want to stay for his party. Here’s what my little Tony Stark looks like now. 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.”
Her sweet boy was especially sorry about his mother’s handiwork.
“He kept saying, ‘we worked so hard on it,’” Jill said. “He was really thinking about how I would feel, which tells you a lot about him.”
The photo Jill shared is heartbreaking. The once-proud fifth-grader who had pep in his step with his hair and makeup making him look just like his hero sat dejected in the car, face wet from crying and shoulders low.
But the decision mother and son made after that was the beginning of his true rise to fame.
The two got frappuccinos and had a heart-to-heart. The bullies, perhaps prompted by jealousy, had dampened Evan’s spirits — but after reviewing the situation with his mom and getting his makeup back on point, Evan decided to make a glorious return.
“He was a little scared walking back into school,” Jill said. “But he had a great rest of the day. And he was so proud of himself. It was absolutely a defining moment in his life. If he hadn’t gone back, it would have broken his spirit.”
And now not only did Evan get to show off his costume to his school, but hundreds of thousands of people online have seen it as well and given him their stamp of approval. The family has been overwhelmed with positive affirmations, kind messages, a video message from a Tony Stark look-alike and letters from all over the world.
Jill made sure to clarify that while they didn’t think the bullies were evil, they had made some poor choices with their language and deeply wounded her normally resilient kiddo. She added that the offending students had been identified and their behavior had been addressed.
“Yesterday Ev learned a lot… some real life lessons,” she added in a follow-up post. “1. He never wants to make someone feel the way he did (so he knows he should choose his words wisely). 2. Not to let other people’s opinions weigh so heavily on him!!”
In the end, those kids’ remarks were unkind, but thanks to the power of mom, Evan’s strength and the kindness of strangers, Evan’s true superhero character shone. Now the real question is, will Robert Downey Jr. reach out?