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Bernie Sanders mittens meme inspires wave of charitable giving

30 January 2021 at 8:00 am
Luke Michael
Official “Chairman Sanders” merchandise sold out in less than 30 minutes 

Luke Michael | 30 January 2021 at 8:00 am


Bernie Sanders mittens meme inspires wave of charitable giving
30 January 2021 at 8:00 am

Official “Chairman Sanders” merchandise sold out in less than 30 minutes 

He may have missed out on the US presidency, but Bernie Sanders has inadvertently helped raise more than $2 million for charity after an image of him at the inauguration of Joe Biden went viral.         

The photo of Sanders wearing wool mittens and a face mask while sitting cross-legged in a parka jacket has inspired countless memes in recent days, as the internet fell in love with the wholesome, cosy image of the Vermont senator.

The mittens-clad Sanders was soon inserted into a myriad of classic TV shows and movies, appearing in everything from Twilight to Friends, while someone even had the image tattooed on their leg.

Sensing the photo’s burgeoning popularity, Sanders released official “Chairman Sanders” merchandise on his website last Thursday, featuring T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers of the image. 

The first run of stock sold out in less than 30 minutes, and demand has continued to surge to the point there is now a four to eight week delay on receiving remaining items.

All proceeds from the merchandise will go to charities, including Meals on Wheels Vermont, Feeding Chittenden, Vermont Parent Child Network, and The Chill Foundation.

Sanders announced on Thursday that merchandise sales have already helped raise US$1.8 million (AU$2.4 million).

“[My wife] Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need,” Sanders said.

“But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress, and I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we’ve faced since the Great Depression.”

Sanders’ now iconic mittens were made by Vermont school teacher Jen Ellis, who owns a side business creating mittens from recycled wool.

Ellis is now auctioning off three “authentic Bernie mittens” – with proceeds from one pair going towards her daughter’s college fund, and proceeds from the other pairs supporting local charities.

She said she was now partnering with Darn Tough Socks to produce a sock inspired by Bernie’s mittens that will raise money for Vermont Foodbank.

The online auction of a handmade crocheted Bernie Sanders doll has also raised more than US$40,000 (AU$52,000) for Meals on Wheels America.

Tobey King, who made the doll, told CNN he was inspired by Sanders’ fundraising efforts. 

“I was talking with another crafter friend who told me Bernie had just sold some hoodies and donated all the proceeds to Meals on Wheels Vermont, and I knew that that is what I wanted to do with the doll I made,” King said.

“With the attention it was getting I was hopeful Meals on Wheels would get a good donation.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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