Altamore Elementary School in Florida decided to have a fun spirit day where they invited the students to dress in a way that would represent their favorite college or university. A 4th grade teacher at that school, Laura Synder, wrote on her Facebook that one of the students in her classroom had made his own shirt for the University of Tennessee by drawing his own UT logo on a piece of paper and pinning the paper to an orange shirt he already owned. Synder said her student was very proud of his work and was “SO EXCITED” to show her what he had made for the school spirit day.
But the student’s excitement turned out to be short-lived when his teacher said he came back from lunch in tears.
Synder revealed in her Facebook post that “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.” Those bullies had turned something that he was proud of into something he felt ashamed for.
“This kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day,” Synder said.
To cheer her student up, Synder said she was planning on getting him an official UT Volunteers shirt. But Synder didn’t want any old UT shirt. She said she wanted a shirt that would be “a little extra special” for her student. So, she asked the people of Facebook if they had any connections with the school so she could make her special order.
But the response she got was so much more than she or her student could have ever hoped for.
Within 24 hours, the post had been shared over 1,000 times and reached so many people that even UT was now aware of the bullying one of their biggest fans had received. The associate athletics director of UT, Jimmy Delaney, organized a huge UT Volunteers care package filled with jerseys, hats, a football signed by the head coach Jeremy Pruitt, notebook, pens, and water bottles. He then sent that care package to the bullied student to show that the school appreciated his enthusiasm for their school and that he shouldn’t worry about what other people think of his design.
Synder explained that the care package “[united] my class even more than I could have imagined, and it was truly amazing to witness!”
But UT was far from done. To help with Synder’s request for a special shirt for her student, UT decided to take things up a notch.
Shortly after this, the UT announced on their Twitter that they will be making the student’s design an official T-shirt. They explained in their tweet that a portion of the proceeds from every shirt will be donated to STOMP Out Bullying, which is the leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization for kids and teens in the U.S.
After the shirt went live, UT reported that their campus store servers temporarily crashed due to the overwhelming demand. Over 16,000 shirts have already been sold.
You asked for it, and @UTVolShop made it happen. 🍊👊 https://t.co/nBGYmyooC1— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) September 6, 2019