Parents

'It's OK to be yourself': Man uses space cats lunchbox to support bullied cousin

Space-cat lunchboxes know no age limits.

After his young cousin Ryker, 10, was bullied for carrying a lunchbox decorated with spacey cats, David Pendragon, 41, took a stand for Ryker's right to like the galactic felines.

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He purchased the same lunchbox, snapped a picture of himself holding it at work at his job as a data analyst, and shared it on Facebook with a note about acceptance. So far, more than 144,000 people have reacted to it.

“I have decided, however, to stand with my little cousin and show him that a man can love whatever he wants and not be afraid to express that love,” he wrote in the post that’s been shared almost 59,000 times. “There's no one way to be a man. Men can be colorful. Men can be expressive. Men can be emotional and silly and gleeful.”

While Pendragon feels stunned by the overwhelming reaction to his post, he’s not surprised that so many people relate to his message.

“At some point in everyone’s life, we've felt like the outsider,” Pendragon, of Charlotte, North Carolina, told TODAY. “I was a sensitive kid that wasn’t into the things a lot of other boys were into like sports, hunting or fishing, so I got my fair share of teasing when I was Ryker’s age.”

A few weeks ago, when Ryker found the space cats lunchbox, he became “stupid excited” about it, so mom Emily Fowler bought it. Ryker loves cats, and his favorite thing to do when comes home from a long day of fourth grade is play with his cat, Wilson.

When the lunchbox arrived, he proudly carried it to school. But the next day, Ryker told his mom he wasn’t taking the lunchbox, but wouldn't explain why. When he said he wasn’t taking it the next day, Fowler talked to Ryker’s teacher.

“She said, ‘I heard two little boys asking if that was his sister’s lunchbox,” Fowler, 34, of Gaston, South Carolina, told TODAY.

Courtesy of Emily Fowler
Ryker, 10, loves cats and felt so excited to have a space cats lunchbox. After his classmates bullied him about it he didn't want to carry it anymore.

While the teacher did speak to the class about bullying, Fowler felt discouraged. She shared her thoughts on Facebook and that’s when Pendragon decided to buy the exact same lunchbox to take to work.

“An adult needs to tell a child, on occasion, ‘It is OK to be yourself — to be silly or funny or to cry or to like kittens. None of that is wrong,’” Pendragon said.

Pendragon continues taking his space cats lunchbox to work and Ryker also resumed taking his to school.

“He calls himself the 'Internet star,'” Fowler said, laughing. “He is in awe of the nice comments.”

While Fowler feels stunned by the overwhelming response to Pendragon’s message, she’s not surprised by her cousin.

Courtesy of Emily Fowler
Ryker's favorite thing in the whole world is cats. He was so sad when he was bullied for his cat lunchbox until his cousin, David Pendragon, posted a message of support on Facebook, which has gone viral.

“David is a very genuine person. He’s always always had the kindest soul,” she said.

For his part, Pendragon feels glad so many people support his message of acceptance for Ryker and kids like him.

“In a world where you can be anything, the best thing you can be is kind,” he said.

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