A Florida fourth grader wanted to represent his favorite university for his elementary school’s “College Colors Day,” but didn’t own any gear.
The boy, who is a huge fan of the University of Tennessee, decided to decorate his own T-shirt for the special day. Laura Snyder, his teacher at Altamonte Elementary School in Altamonte Springs, wrote on Facebook that he drew the university’s logo on paper and pinned it to an orange T-shirt he found at home.
“Last week, my elementary school participated in college colors day. When I told my students about this day a week before, this particular child came to me and told me that he wanted to wear a University of Tennessee shirt, but he didn’t have one,” Snyder explained in the post that began on Sept. 4 and was last updated on Sept. 6. “We discussed that he could wear an orange shirt to show his spirit. He told me every day leading up to it that he had an orange shirt that he was going to wear.”
Snyder added, “So when the day finally arrived, he was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt. I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label.”
However, after lunch, the boy came back to the classroom crying after a group of girls made fun of his handmade shirt.
“He was DEVASTATED,” his teacher wrote. “I know kids can be cruel, I am aware that it’s not the fanciest sign, BUT this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day.”
To cheer up her student, she wanted to get him an official University of Tennessee T-shirt, and asked her Facebook friends if they had any connections to make the gift “extra special.”
The response, she said, was overwhelming. Her post went viral among Vols fans with many sending their support in uplifiting comments to the young boy. It even got the attention of the university itself, who revealed in a press conference that they would be sending the young fan a care package of spirit gear.
“As a marketing and fan experience guy, I love the creativity that he showed there and it got back to us and got back to the football team, to campus here, to the Vol Shop,” Associate Athletics Director for Fan Experience & Sales Jimmy Delaney said, according to a campus publication, The Daily Beacon.
But the university didn’t stop there. They also created an official T-shirt with the boy’s design, and announced on Twitter that a portion of the proceeds from every shirt sold will be donated to an anti-bullying foundation.
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Share in a Florida elementary student's Volunteer pride by wearing his design on your shirt too! Pre-order today for a late September expected delivery. A portion of proceeds from every shirt sold will be donated to @STOMPOutBullyng .https://t.co/NdnTtYREFL pic.twitter.com/OeTZvgC09Y— VolShop (@UTVolShop) September 6, 2019
“I’m not even sure I can put into words his reaction. It was so heartwarming,” Snyder shared about her student’s reaction to the spirit gear. “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.”
“When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” she added. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller, and I could tell his confidence grew today!”
According to the university’s online shop, demand for the T-shirt was so high it caused the website to crash.