University of Tennessee turns bullied 4th grader's T-shirt design into official school apparel

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

UT sells shirt designed by bullied kid

A University of Tennessee superfan was bullied after designing his own UT shirt and wearing it to school. Now, the university is featuring the fourth grader's logo on their official school merchandise.

A student at Altamonte Elementary School in Florida wanted to represent the Vols for "College Colors Day" but didn't own any official apparel for the university, teacher Laura Snyder said. Instead, he drew his own UT logo on a piece of paper and pinned it to an orange T-shirt.

"When the day finally arrived, he was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt," Snyder wrote on Facebook. "I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label."

But according to Snyder, the student faced teasing from classmates for his homemade design.

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"After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on on his desk and was crying," she wrote. "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."

Snyder shared the story on Facebook, asking if any of her friends had a connection to the school and could get the boy something special. The post went viral and the UT community came together to support the young fan.

The university soon saw the post and sent a personalized care package to the boy and his classmates.

Hats, bags, school supplies bracelets, water bottles, towels and other UT swag soon arrived to Snyder's classroom. She said the experience united her students and that everyone was "ecstatic" to receive the merchandise.

But UT didn't stop there. The school is turning the boy's original logo design into an official school t-shirt, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to STOMP Out Bullying, a national anti-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

"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," Snyder said.

The campus store even said there was so much demand for the design that its website crashed.

Snyder kept the identity of the student private, but shared a note from his mother on Facebook.

"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," she wrote. "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."

First published on September 8, 2019 / 7:38 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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