A boy bullied for his homemade UT shirt design made national headlines, leading the university to make his shirt a reality and offer him a scholarship.
Knoxville News Sentinel
In a year that’s been anything but ordinary, at least one thing remains the same: The UT shirt created by a bullied boy in Florida still is the VolShop’s best seller.
And it’s not even close.
It’s been roughly one year since the fourth grade student created a makeshift Vols shirt for his school’s college spirit day. The design was made into an actual University of Tennessee shirt after a Facebook post went viral and garnered worldwide support.
VolShop ended up selling nearly 113,000 shirts with the boy’s design. But how does this compare to other Tennessee gear?
A viral anti-bullying message
The boy’s teacher, Laura Snyder, shared the story behind the boy’s shirt on Facebook in September 2019. The post immediately took off.
The Pride of the Southland band wears the T-shirt made with a bullied child’s design for a home game against Chattanooga on Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel )
Snyder explained how the boy didn’t have a Vols shirt to wear for his school’s college colors day and resorted to drawing his own UT design on a sheet of paper. He attached the paper to an orange shirt, walked into school excited but was left in tears after other students made fun of him.
“He was DEVASTATED,” Snyder wrote in her post. “I know kids can be cruel, I am aware that it’s not the fanciest sign, BUT this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day (one that I celebrated all week: Go Noles).”
Need a shirt? Only a few sizes left
Thousands of comments and shares later, the story made its way to UT, which rallied together different departments to send his class a “Volunteer Proud Pack” filled with Big Orange goodies.
The support culminated when the university offered the boy a four-year scholarship and turned his design into an actual shirt, which VolShop sold to raise money for STOMP Out Bullying.
The shirts no longer are for sale online; only a handful of 3XL and 4XL shirts are available at the student union VolShop on campus.
“But they are only available for in-store purchase, and once they are gone, they are gone,” VolShop Marketing Manager Tommi Grubbs told Knox News in an email. “We won’t be getting any additional inventory of this item.”
It is ‘by far’ the best-selling shirt
Tennessee band members and Vols supporters got their hands on the shirts and proudly repped them on game days last year. WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil, who played football at Florida, even wore one on live TV during Gator Week.
VolShop ended up selling 112,715 shirts, which resulted in $952,101 being raised for STOMP Out Bullying over three months. The amount of orders briefly caused the VolShop website to crash.
The shirts sold for $14.95, with about $8.45 in proceeds from each shirt going toward the anti-bullying organization.
“It was by far the best seller that we’ve ever sold,” Grubbs said. “Typically our quantity of pieces are less than 400 pieces of an item, which doesn’t compare to 112,715 pieces.”
Grubbs said she is proud to have a part in “such a worthy and important cause.”
The message of “kindness” left an impact on the VolShop staff, Grubbs said, and she still talks with Snyder and people in Florida with ties to the boy’s family.
“Nobody would have ever imagined the difference one little boy would make in so many different lives,” she said.
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