By Riley Manning
TUPELO – Few middle schoolers have seen a tornado up close and personal like Tupelo seventh-grader Shields Haire.
When the storm struck last month, 13-year-old Shields’ parents were in Hawaii and his grandparents and older brother waited anxiously in the basement of the Haires’ Joyner neighborhood home for the rain of debris to subside.
“We heard trees cracking, and one fell on the side of our house,” Shields said. “That hour felt like days.”
When a neighbor knocked on the door to check on them, they emerged to find damage to their chimney, windows and roof. Shields’ grandfather, Bill Dye, said 24 trees had fallen in the yard.
But looking around the rest of his neighborhood, Shields said it was easy to see they had been lucky. In the days that followed, he rode through the rubble and realized he wanted to help.
“I was still upset, and it just popped into my head how I could help. I figured the easiest, most convenient way to raise money would be to sell T-shirts,” he said. “Everyone wears T-shirts.”
Shields said he knew exactly how he wanted the shirts to look, from the Bible verse, the “Tupelo Strong” tagline, the date of the storm, and the proclamation, “I survived.”
With the help of his mother, Anne Haire, the shirts were soon ordered, and Shields began spreading the word through school and social media. When one of his teachers posted a picture of his shirt on Facebook, sales really started rolling in.
“So far we’ve sold two bulk orders of shirts, about 250 in all,” Shields said.
Of the more than $3,000 Shields reports raising so far, he said he will donate every cent of the profits to First Christian Church, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Luke United Methodist Church, his home church St. James Catholic Church, and other places of worship affected by the tornado.
“l wanted to make sure the money went directly to the churches, and I thought it would be good to get the community to help,” he said. “Every dollar counts.”
To get a shirt of your own, which come in youth and adult sizes and range from $20 to $25, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your size, or call Anne Shields at (662) 871-5866.