Florida teacher, Laura Snyder spotted one of her students upset on college colors day.
This young boy didn’t have a University of Tennessee shirt to wear, so he had made his own. It consisted of an orange shirt with his own hand-drawn logo on a piece of paper safety pinned to the shirt. At lunch some of the other kids made fun of him and he was crushed.
Laura spotted him alone and sad.
From there she decided to buy him a UT shirt and reach out on social media to see if any of her connections could make it a little extra special for him.
It was only a few days later that UT reached out with a giant care package full of UT gear for this young boy and his entire class.
They also surprised him by taking his exact design and creating a custom shirt that they planned to sell with proceeds going towards an anti-bullying campaign. (https://www.stompoutbullying.org/)
I was so excited! I tried to buy one.
And I tried.
And I tried.
And I tried.
The shirt was so popular and the support for this boy was so outstanding that the UT VolShop site crashed and stayed down for days.
After the site came back up more orders poured in.
They wound up selling over 109,000 shirts!
The orders were so backed up it took months to ship them all out.
I think I waited about two months to get mine but I did not mind waiting at all.
I was so full of joy that I had to wait that long because it meant this boy’s message was reaching a lot of people.
It’s an amazing story of kindness and I believe there are three great lessons for leaders.
1. Always look for opportunities to be kind.
In any organization there are opportunities to show kindness to people that need a boost.
2. Be kind to people when they present new ideas.
Ideas always go through iterations. The first attempt at anything is never polished and completely perfect. It is up to leaders to see the potential in their people and the ideas they bring to the table then elevate them, grow them and encourage them. This young boy’s shirt was a paper safety pinned to cotton. The bullies didn’t see the potential but UT did.
3. Stand up to bullies.
The workplace is no place for bullying. Bullies may have seemed cool back in the 80’s but thankfully, not anymore. It is up to leaders to remove that poison from any work environment and deliver a clear message that kindness is king.
I applaud the culture that of UT where their employees had the opportunity to be outrageously kind. They didn’t have to do anything for this boy. It could have been just his teacher purchasing him a t-shirt as an act of kindness. Instead, it turned into so much more because of people understanding the power of kindness.
I think it’s so fitting that UT are the Volunteers. People who give themselves freely for a cause. They were so kind that they stood up to the bullies and stood beside one of their own, a Vol.
And he will be a Vol for life since UT has offered him a full four-year scholarship.
Now all he has to do is graduate from elementary school.