In late August of this year, a fourth grader at Altamonte Elementary School in Altamonte Springs designed a shirt to wear during his school’s “College Colors Day,” when he drew the University of Tennessee’s logo on paper and pinned it to an orange T-shirt he found at home because he didn’t have any official University of Tennessee merchandise. However, after lunch, the boy came back to his classroom crying. In a Facebook post from his teacher, she claimed he was “devastated” after a group of girls made fun of his homemade t-shirt.
Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn’t even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt,” his teacher explained. “He was DEVASTATED. I know kids can be cruel, I am aware that it’s not the fanciest sign, BIT this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day.” Snyder ended the post saying she wanted to at least buy him a University of Tennessee shirt, but if anyone had connections to the school she was hoping to make it “a little extra special for him.”
The post almost immediately went viral among Vols fans, with over eleven thousand shares, and, before Snyder knew it, she was contacted by the University of Tennessee informing her that they wanted to send him and the rest of his classmates a care package in support of her student. “My student was so amazed at all the goodies in the box. He proudly put on the jersey and one of the many hats in the box. All who saw had either goosebumps or tears while we explained that he had inspired and touched the lives of so many people … My student got to pass out UT swag to his classmates. They were ecstatic! They immediately put on the bracelets and asked if they could fill up the water bottles. Then they went to our class sink and soaked the cooling towels to put around their necks. My students even enjoyed using their new pens to complete their writing quiz,” described Snyder.
Just wait, it gets even better.
After the story went viral, UT actually created an official collegiate game-day t-shirt with the boy’s design on it; they also announced on Twitter that a portion of the proceeds from every shirt will go toward Stomp Out Bullying, an anti-bullying foundation. Since this recognition, over 16,000 shirts have been sold out of the campus bookstore after a pre-sale at started late last week, UT’s Director of Media Relations Tyra E. Haag said in a statement to CNN. Demand for the t-shirt was so high, that their online store crashed Saturday the shirt went on sale. In her statement, Haag mentioned that the school is not making a single profit on the t-shirt, which is retailing for $14.99.
“When I told (my student) that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” Snyder said in her latest update. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller, and I could tell his confidence grew today! Thank you to the UT Nation for that!”
In addition, their school mascot, Smokey, wore his own shirt of the design the boy had created; which was posted onto his twitter account. Fans also painted the handmade logo on “The Rock,” a landmark at the university’s Knoxville campus. “As the Volunteers, the University of Tennessee believes in putting others before ourselves. We’re so glad we were able to support this student, put a smile on his face and bring more orange into his life. In the true spirit of UT, alumni, fans and honorary Volunteers around the world have stepped up,” Haag said in a statement.
The boy has not been identified, but he will have plenty of University of Tennessee gear to wear on September 21, when the team comes to Gainesville, Florida, to play the University of Florida.
CNN. (2019). The University of Tennessee says it’s already sold more than 16,000 shirts inspired by bullied boy’s design. Available at: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/10/us/tennessee-bullied-student-shirt-sales-…
Knox News. (2019). The story just got better — VolShop is selling a shirt with bullied boy’s design. Available at: https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2019/09/06/university-tennessee-foot…