MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — In the days since a young Tennessee fan rocked his own handmade UT shirt and was made fun of for it, Vol Nation has shown him a wave of love and support. Demands for a shirt featuring his original design have crashed whole websites and he was offered a casual full ride to the University of Tennessee when he gets older.
Now, one elementary school in Pennsylvania is also using the "Vol Shirt" story to hammer home some cool anti-bullying messages and show support for Tennessee in the process.
Students at Winding Creek Elementary School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania went to school for an "Orange Out" to show support to the University of Tennessee and honor the creativity of the Florida fourth grader.
In a tweet, the school said they appreciated the Vols standing up to bullying and wanted to foster that same environment within their schools.
Assistant principal of Winding Creek Elementary School Mike Azzalina said the idea of an "Orange Out" came when school principal Chad Runkle showed the video to his staff on the morning news announcement. Azzalina, considering all the hat days and PJ days they do anyway, suggested an "Orange Out"
"It hit home and struck a cord with I think a lot of people in the building," Azzalina said. "We wanted to do something to stand by [Tennessee]".
The students and staff more than complied. Students showed up fully outfitted in Vols gear, orange t-shirts, or even just posters saying 'this is my orange shirt'.
Azzalina said Winding Creek especially encouraged the kids to get inventive if they did not have Vols gear. The school, he said, drew on the spirit of bold innovation which the fourth grader in Florida embodied in his original t-shirt in order to reiterate a special message.
"That whole idea of not having everything that you want to have or need to have at every moment of the day happens to our kids a lot. A simple pajama day or hat day is something that not all kids can do in the moment for different circumstances. So being innovative, being creative, solving those problems, that's a big piece of this puzzle," Azzalina said.
The students and staff especially wanted to show their support for how the University of Tennessee, and Vol Nation as a whole, responded to a boy in Florida who they had never met.
It would have been easy, Azzalina said, for the university to let the story of a kid who repped the Vols at school only to be met with the ire of his classmates slide off their backs.
That Tennessee refused to do that, and instead, is an example he wants his students to follow.
"I don't know that everyone would do that. Putting that message out there the way they did I think that's why we wanted to step in and also tag team. I think that speaks volumes,"Azzalina said.
Azzalina also said his elementary school has experienced some of that same Vol Nation love themselves.
"The outreach we got from Tennessee fans was unbelievable," Azzalina said. "We stand by them, and my phone didn't stop going off all night! People saying we're forever part of the Vol family."
So for now, it looks like the t-shirt designed by the inventive Florida fourth grader has inspired another classroom more.
Want to warm your heart more with another dose of "Vol Shirt" stories?