Bernie Sanders mitten meme raises big bucks for charity

Merchandise inspired by the US senator’s wardrobe at Joe Biden’s inauguration has raised $1.8m for charity.

The image of Senator Bernie Sanders at the inauguration, which became a popular meme, has helped raise money for charity [File: Brendan Smialowski/AFP]

A viral photo of United States Senator Bernie Sanders wearing woolly mittens has helped nab $1.8m for charity in his home state of Vermont.

Sanders announced on Wednesday the money had been raised through merchandise inspired by the image of him sitting cross-legged in a casual jacket, his hands cosy in the brown and beige mittens at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

The image, taken by an AFP photographer, quickly caught the imagination of the internet, with many noting that Sanders looked more like he was running errands on the chilly Wednesday than attending the swearing-in of the 46th president of the US.

Memes dropping the mittened Sanders into iconic art pieces, Ultimate Fighting Championship matches, classic album covers and popular television shows, to name a few, soon abounded on social media.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ mittens at the inauguration of President Joe Biden [File: Jonathan Ernst/The Associated Press]

Sanders put the first of the so-called “Chairman Sanders” merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, on his website on Thursday night and the first run sold out in less than 30 minutes, he said.

More merchandise was added over the weekend and sold out by Monday morning, he said.

“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 in a written statement.

“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’ mittens were made by a Vermont elementary school teacher who has a side business making mittens out of recycled wool. While she has said the mittens will not be for sale to the general public, she told local media she will auction off three pairs for local charities.

Meanwhile, the groups that will benefit from the proceeds from Sanders’ haul include area agencies on ageing to fund Meals on Wheels throughout Vermont, Vermont community action agencies, Feeding Chittenden, Vermont Parent Child Network, The Chill Foundation, senior centres in Vermont and Bi-State Primary Care for dental care improvements in the state, Sanders’s office said.

Getty Images will donate its proceeds as part of the licensing agreement to put the photo on T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers to Meals on Wheels of America, Sanders’s office said.

Sanders’s inauguration wardrobe has also inspired at least one other charitable spinoff.

A handmade crocheted doll of Sanders sold for $20,300 on eBay, with the creator pledging to donate all the proceeds to the Meals on Wheels organisation.

The online auction company then said it would match the final bid, securing more than $40,000 for the charity.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies