A Florida boy bullied for wearing a homemade Tennessee T-shirt during his school's "college colors day" got such an overwhelming amount of support after his story went viral that the university decided to step in too.
Not only did departments across campus donate items for his entire elementary school class but his original Tennessee design also is now featured on a special T-shirt for sale through the VolShop.
Tyra Haag, director of media relations for the University of Tennessee, said presales of the shirt, for expected delivery in late September, have topped 16,000 orders, and proceeds from the sales will go to the nonprofit STOMP Out Bullying.
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
"As the Volunteers, the University of Tennessee believes in putting others before ourselves," Haag said. "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."
The story began last week when the teacher of the fourth-grade student in Altamonte Springs, Florida, posted what happened on Facebook. Laura Snyder wrote in her post that the boy, whom she did not name, was a huge Vols fan but did not have a shirt to wear for college colors day. He told her he had an orange shirt he wanted to wear. When he arrived for school that day, he had attached a piece of paper with his own UT design clipped to the front. But after lunch, he came back to his classroom crying. Snyder wrote, "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. He was DEVASTATED."
Snyder's Facebook post went viral nearly instantaneously. UT interim president Randy Boyd tweeted about it, writing, "I was touched to learn of a young Florida school student's heart for the University of Tennessee, and I LOVED his imagination behind designing his own shirt. So many of us admire his love for UT and it's awesome to see everyone step up to send him some UT gear!"
I was touched to learn of a young Florida school student's heart for the University of Tennessee, and I LOVED his imagination behind designing his own shirt. So many of us admire his love for UT and it's awesome to see everyone step up to send him some UT gear!#EverywhereUT pic.twitter.com/83YqjzBxag— UT Interim President Randy Boyd (@UT_President) September 5, 2019
In a lengthy follow-up post on social media, Snyder said her student had received the care package from Tennessee and was amazed.
"All who saw had either goosebumps or tears while we explained that he had inspired and touched the lives of so many people," Snyder wrote in the post. "When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped. 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!!"
Snyder also posted a thank-you note from the boy's mother.
"I am overwhelmed by the love I feel from this extended community and the pride I feel for my son," the letter reads, in part. "Every comment, item sent and action taken on behalf of my son will never be forgotten and hopefully will serve as an inspiration for him throughout his life."