Here’s a story we can all rally around. Earlier this week, an elementary school teacher in Tallahassee posted a photo of a student wearing a makeshift University of Tennessee shirt. The school had a “College Colors Day”, and this particular student wanted to show off his Volunteer fandom. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a Tennessee shirt. Instead, he made his own, complete with his own design.
Initially this story had a sad tone. The teacher’s post described how the young man was bullied for his shirt, and how she had to comfort him. It originally ended with her planning to buy him a shirt, and hoping that someone could reach out to the university and see what they could do.
It took just a few days for the university to get on it. On September 6th, the little boy received a care package from the school, complete with all types of gifts with that patented Big Orange shade.
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
But that’s not where the story ended. Earlier this Friday, the VolShop posted a tweet with a shirt that had the young fan’s design printed on it. A portion of proceeds from the shirt will go towards the STOMP Out Bullying organization.
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
The teacher updated her Facebook post with a heartwarming description of the student’s reaction:
9/6/19 - UT really outdid themselves !! I was so excited to surprise my student today!! I’m not even sure I can put into words his reaction. It was so heartwarming. 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. 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!!
Chances are this story isn’t over yet! These types of things tend to have a snowball effect of outreach and support, and the existence of the t-shirt means the message will spread far beyond just Tallahassee and Knoxville.
It’s easy to get very negative about Tennessee athletics these days. While some of that is warranted, we should all take some time to celebrate the good news that comes out as well.