Last year, Twitter users took to the hashtag #EmptyNeylandStadium in response to a continuous losing season.
With many angry UT fans giving up their seats, South Knox Elementary principal Tanna Nicely saw an opportunity to ask those who were not going to attend games to donate their tickets to South Knox Elementary students.
“If people weren’t going to use their tickets, we have kids at the school that have never seen a ball game before,” Nicely said. Ironically, South Knox Elementary has a perfect view of the stadium. “When we release kids from school and car riders, you can actually see the stadium.”
After tweeting out about donating unused tickets, Nicely received a massive response with over 350 tickets donated to the school. This year, Nicely hopes to achieve a similar goal for the upcoming Missouri game. In fact, several anonymous donors have dropped off tickets for past games, such as the Kentucky and Charlotte games. For now, Nicely reported she has four tickets for the upcoming Missouri game but is expecting more to be dropped off by the weekend.
Nicely found the connection with students’ families at the games to be rewarding. “It’s just a chance for our kids to see a ballgame and be part of the University of Tennessee. It’s been really life-changing. I have thank-you cards from some of the families that have went. One of the requirements that I ask is that the families send me a picture of them enjoying the game. I received several of those nice pictures of the kids enjoying the game with their families,” she said.
As for random Knoxvillians donating their tickets, Nicely connects these donations to the “Volunteer state spirit.”
“I think it says a lot about the spirit of our state, the volunteer state, helping those less fortunate. We are a high-poverty school. If you look at the face value, the Kentucky game tickets, they’re out of reach for some of our household budgets. These total strangers giving these random acts of kindness just show a true spirit of our great state,” she said.
To donate tickets for the upcoming Missouri game, call the South Knox Elementary at 579-2100 or visit the school at 801 Sevier Ave.