‘Not all heroes wear capes’: Teen befriends neighbor with Autism

Updated: Apr. 26, 2019 at 11:27 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Treat people how you want to be treated. It’s an age-old phrase that high-schooler Evensen Ross has built his life around.

Evensen saw his neighbor Braedon Cottingham riding his bike around by himself and asked if he could join him.

“I saw him riding his bike by himself and I don’t like people being alone, so I went over there and started hanging out with him,” Evensen said.

Braedon has Autism and his parents said he has a hard time making friends.

“It’s not that he doesn’t want them or we hadn’t wanted him to have them, the social, I hate to say awkwardness, but the social level that Braedon is on, some people don’t really understand,” Shawn Cottingham, Braedon’s dad, said.

Since Ross reached out, the two have been best buds. Evensen is the only person, other than family, that the Cottinghams trust Braedon with.

”Not all heroes wear capes, and that young man is our hero. And to see those two together, it’s like Batman and Robin," Shawn Cottingham explained. “Braedon feeds off of Evensen’s attitude and off of his spirit. When he’s around, Braedon gets a couple inches taller. He sits a little bit higher. His eyes glow a little bit brighter and it’s his first real freedom."

The two have gone to the beach, for rides in Evensen’s Jeep and to Krispy Kreme to celebrate Braedon getting his braces off.

“We’re best friends. You’re my best friend, Ev,” Braedon said.

Evensen has dyslexia and was made fun of when he was younger. He vowed he never wanted anyone else to feel like that.

”I got made fun of when I was in middle school. I remember sitting alone at lunch because I didn’t want to deal with kids being mean," Evensen said.

Evensen’s parents said they’re proud of their son, but not surprised. They said he motivates them to be better people every day.

“One thing that we’ve always talked about in our house is that one of the most important things in life that we can do is, two things really, one, leave this world a better place than you found it. Two, do something every day any time you can to make sure people know they’re not alone in this world - and that’s what he did," his mom Kathy Ross said.

“He’s really nice. He’s really funny. I can always count on him being there. I can always talk to him and he can always count on me to be there," Evensen said about Braedon.

Braedon’s family credits Evensen for helping give their son a role model and big brother to look up to. Both families said they hope their sons’ friendship shows others that people with disabilities aren’t any lesser of people.

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