Shields Haire, 14, of Tupelo, Miss., an eighth-grader at Tupelo Middle School, raised nearly $8,000 by selling T-shirts he helped design to assist in the rebuilding of four local churches after they were severely damaged or destroyed by a tornado that struck Tupelo last spring. Huddled in his basement, Shields listened as the tornado ripped through his town. When he finally was able to walk outside, "it was like a bomb had exploded, a new world," Shields said. "I didn't know Tupelo anymore." Shields felt he needed to do something positive in the wake of the disaster, and decided to help four churches because they do so much for people in his community. "I thought how can I do this and it hit me: everybody needs a T-shirt!"
Shields worked with a graphic artist to design a T-shirt that read "I survived the Tupelo Tornado" on the back and "Tupelo Strong" along with a Bible verse on the front. He placed an order for shirts, made posters to hang around town, and with the help of his family, began spreading news of his project. Shields sold shirts at his school, at his parents' businesses, and at local events. After stories about the T-shirt appeared on TV and in the local newspaper, sales quickly escalated. It wasn't long before Shields had sold more than 400 shirts and was able to present almost $2,000 to each of the four churches. "This made me realize the impact that one small idea can make," said Shields.