This is the story of a fourth grader who’s a huge fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. When his elementary school’s “College Colors Day” arrived, the boy desperately wanted to represent his favorite team, but he didn’t own any of the team’s merch. No T-shirts, no caps, not even a scarf or fanny pack.
What to do?
“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,” the boy’s teacher, Laura Snyder wrote in a Facebook post. “We discussed that he could wear an orange shirt to show his spirit. He told me every day leading up to [College Colors Day] he had an orange shirt he was going to wear.”
When the day arrived, not only was the boy wearing an orange shirt, he’d attached his own label – a piece of paper that read “UT.” The boy couldn’t have been more excited to show it off.
His joy didn’t last long.
At lunch, a group of girls started picking on the boy, making fun of the shirt he was so proud of.
“He was DEVASTATED,” Snyder wrote. “I know kids can be cruel, I’m aware it’s not the fanciest sign, BUT this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in spirit day.”
So, Snyder acted, taking to Facebook telling friends she wanted to get the boy an official Volunteers t-shirt, and asked if anyone had connections to the university. Her hope was to add something to the gift to make it even more special.
Snyder’s Facebook post went viral. Not only did it get tons of people talking and sending messages of support to the boy, it eventually made its way to Jimmy Delaney, the Associate Athletics Director for Fan Experience & Sales at the University of Tennessee.
Delaney was so taken with the boy’s creativity, he announced the university would be sending him a care package full of Vols gear. As if that wasn’t enough, the University of Tennessee also turned the boy’s design into an official Volunteers T-shirt. The Vols are donating a portion of the shirt’s sales to STOMP Out Bullying, an anti-bullying organization.
“This little boy is getting his justice, and I’m so thrilled for him,” Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying told ABC News. “You just can’t pick on a kid and think it’s OK. For him to get justice is just like winning a peace prize, because no one is going to bully him anymore.”
The University of Tennessee says tens of thousands of people have ordered the shirt. Students even placed a copy of the boy’s design on the University’s famous “The Rock” sculpture.
“When I told [the boy] his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” Snyder wrote. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller and I could tell his confidence grew.”