A Florida boy who was bullied for a homemade shirt he made supporting the University of Tennessee for an elementary school College Colors Day inspired Rocky Top to create and sell the design to fans.
Not having any Volunteers apparel, the unnamed boy drew a large U and T on a piece of paper and pinned it to an orange shirt, Laura Snyder, his teacher at Altamonte Elementary School, wrote on social media.
“He told me every day leading up to it that he had an orange shirt that he was going to wear. So when the day finally arrived, he was so excited to show me his shirt,” Snyder wrote Wednesday. “I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label.”
The boy came back to the classroom crying after lunch. He was devastated because a group of students, who had not even participated in the spirit day, made fun of his self-made design.
Snyder planned to get the student a UT shirt of his own. She posted about the experience online and the story reached school officials. Snyder was surprised at the show of support.
In addition to the box of hats, shirts and other apparel the school sent Thursday, it also started printing a shirt with the design Snyder’s student crafted.
“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. “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.”
The shirt is already a hit. The school store website crashed Saturday because there were so many orders for it. A portion of proceeds from sales of the shirt will support anti-bullying programs.
UT interim President Randy Boyd said on social media that he loved the shirt.
Snyder later shared a letter the boy’s mother wrote.
“I can tell you that I spent a lot of my day reading all the kind words in support of my son and am touched beyond words,” the mother wrote. “I know that he will be over the moon when he receives his UT Vols shirt and blown away by the support of all these people he’s never met.”
Shirt orders are expected to go out later in September.
“Thank you so much so all who have made this such a positive experience for my student, and also showing the rest of my class what it’s like to come together and be kind,” Snyder wrote. “Personally, I’m looking forward to wearing the shirt he designed.”
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