Paddington said: ‘If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.’
The unbridled optimism of this quote doesn’t always fit in the cruelty of the real world, but a young Florida boy’s recent triumph helps to testify that there are good souls out there.
It was ‘College Colors Day’ at the boy’s elementary school – where pupils represent their favourite university by wearing the college’s respective gear or colours.
The young student wanted to show his support for the University of Tennessee, but didn’t have any gear. So, he wore an orange t-shirt and pinned a hand-drawn university logo to it.
Laura Snyder, his teacher at Altamonte Elementary School in Altamonte Springs, wrote on Facebook:
Last week, my elementary school participated in college colors day. When I told my students about this day a week before, this particular child came to me and told me that he wanted to wear a University of Tennessee shirt, but he didn’t have one.
We discussed that he could wear an orange shirt to show his spirit. He told me every day leading up to it that he had an orange shirt that he was going to wear.
Ecstatic about this ingenious idea, the young boy rushed into school – Snyder wrote that he was ‘so excited’ to show people.
That pureness was curbed: after lunchtime, the pupil came back to the classroom in tears after a group of girls made fun of his shirt.
After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on on his desk and was crying. 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. 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)!
The teacher did the impossible: she appealed to people’s kindness, and it paid off.
She added in the Facebook post (which has been continually updated) that she wanted to get the boy an official University of Tennessee shirt, and asked friends if they had any connections to make the gift ‘extra special’.
The response was huge. As well as her original post going viral, with people commenting that the story made them cry, the University themselves took notice.
As per People, the campus’ Associate Athletics Director for Fan Experience and Sales, Jimmy Delaney:
As a marketing and fan experience guy, I love the creativity that he showed there and it got back to us and got back to the football team, to campus here, to the Vol Shop.
The university sent the young fan a massive care package: with jerseys, water bottles, notepads and pens among the gifts.
Snyder added to the Facebook post:
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.
The university didn’t stop there. Inspired by the student’s ‘volunteer pride’, they created an official t-shirt with the boy’s design – with a portion of the proceeds made from each purchase going to an anti-bullying charity.
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
Safe to say, the young student was astonished. According to the university’s Twitter, the demand for the shirts was so great that the website crashed temporarily.
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!
It looks like Paddington was right.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.