True fans always find a way to show off their school spirit, even if they don’t have the means to buy top shelf gear.
Laura Snyder, a teacher at Altamonte Elementary School in Alamonte Springs, Florida, had been looking forward to the school’s college colors day for a solid week. This day gives students a change to wear a shirt representing their favorite college, and it’s a wonderful way to get kids in grammar school excited about going to college someday.
Laura explained that in the days leading up to college colors day one little boy had been particularly keen to show off his favorite school, the University of Tennessee. The only problem is that the child didn’t own a UT shirt, but Laura assured him that he didn’t need anything official to participate in the big day.
“We discussed that he could wear an orange shirt to show his spirit,” Laura stated. “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.”
Laura was impressed and touched to see that the boy had added a handwritten UT label to his orange shirt, to better show off his affiliation with the UT Vols.
“I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label,” said Laura. Sadly, as is often the case in elementary school, the child’s classmates were not nearly as accepting of the homemade shirt as they could have been.
“After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on on his desk and was crying,” Laura said. “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.”
Laura went on to say that she understands how kids can be cruel, but she was impressed that he’d used what resources he had to participate in the school’s special day. She wrote about the situation on her Facebook page, telling others that while she planned to buy the student an official UT shirt herself, she wondered if anyone on her friends list had a connection to UT and might be willing to do a little bit more for their young fan. The results of the teacher’s query were swift and overwhelmingly positive!
Just days later Laura’s post had gone viral, with Vols fans from across the nation volunteering to send the boy gifts and sending him messages of support. Eventually the University caught wind of what had happened and they too wanted to do something special to acknowledge the school spirit displayed by this young future Vol.
Within days a huge care package arrived at the school filled with UT gear, and not just for the student — but for Laura’s whole class!
“UT really outdid themselves!!” Laura wrote in an update to her original Facebook post. “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.”
“Then the fun part set in,” Laura continued. “My student got to pass out UT swag to his classmates. They were ecstatic!! They immediately put on the bracelets and asked if they could fill up the water bottles. Then they went to our class sink and soaked the cooling towels to put around their necks. My students even enjoyed using their new pens to complete their writing quiz!
While the kids were filling water bottles and waiting to water down their towels, it made this teacher so proud to see the kids congratulating my student. High fives, hugs, pats on the back could be seen from the kids. This experience is uniting my class even more than I could have imagined, and it was truly amazing to witness!! The Vols spirit was definitely felt in my classroom today!”
But this sweet story doesn’t end with UT coming to this child’s rescue. Instead, UT listened to the public and decided to take their gesture much, much further. The Vol shop decided to make a real t-shirt based on the little boy’s design and donate a portion of the proceeds to an anti-bullying foundation.
“You asked for it, and @UTVolShop made it happen,” UT tweeted. Incredibly there was so much demand for these shirts that their website crashed during the first weekend they were made available. Everyone couldn’t wait to buy a shirt to support their young fan and send a big message to the bullies of the world!
“When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” Laura said. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller, and I could tell his confidence grew today!”
Laura later shared a letter that the boy’s mother had written to express her gratitude. “I am overwhelmed by the love I feel from this extended community and the pride I feel for my son and for being a VFL. Every comment, item sent, and action taken on behalf of my son will never be forgotten and hopefully will serve as inspiration for him throughout his life,” his mom wrote.
What a fantastic way to take a negative situation and turn it into something positive! This teacher’s viral message got through to the correct channels loud and clear, and now others will benefit from the anti-bullying message. It just goes to show that you never know who might step forward to save the day if you just have the courage to ask for help.
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