Fully prepared for the cold temperatures that President Joe Biden’s inauguration brought, Bernie Sanders wore a light-brown jacket and a pair of Vermont-made mittens to the event, the latter of which has garnered a large reaction on social media.
After being photographed sitting at the inauguration with his legs crossed and his mittens in his lap, Sanders went viral, inspiring countless memes. Users superimposed pictures of Sanders sitting at the inauguration into numerous different locations, including the couch from “Friends,” a Justin Bieber concert, and even onto the moon.
The mittens in the now viral photograph were designed by Jen Ellis, a Vermont teacher, who noted on Twitter that she made them from repurposed wool from old sweaters and lined them with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.
Ellis has since created additional mittens and has begun auctioning them off for good causes—she donated pairs to both Passion 4 Paws Vermont and Outright Vermont, and is auctioning another off on Ebay to supplement her daughter’s college fund. According to her website, Ellis’ mittens raised $3,800 for Passion 4 Paws Vermont and $14,850 for Outright Vermont, marking a large charitable donation. While her auction for her daughter’s college fund is still ongoing, it’s currently raised almost $2,000.
Recently, she has revealed that she’s partnering with Vermont Teddy Bear, a local Vermont company, to make the mittens for everyone. Continuing a charitable course, Ellis has promised a portion of the proceeds to Make A Wish Vermont.
Just like Ellis, Sanders has been utilizing the viral image to raise funds for the state of Vermont. Following the success of the meme online, his website released t-shirts and sweatshirts that feature the viral image, the proceeds of which will go entirely to charities in Vermont. In a statement released Jan. 27, Sanders revealed that the merchandise has earned $1.8 million for Vermont organizations like Meals on Wheel and Feeding Chittenden.
While the memes may be dying down, Sanders’ motivation for helping the people of Vermont is not. In the same statement released Jan. 27, he said that while he was pleased with the donations made thus far, they were “no substitute for action by Congress.”