The mittens Senator Bernie Sanders wore to the presidential inauguration did more than just keep him warm and spark a viral meme — over the past five days, they raised over $1.8 million dollars for charities in Vermont.
After a photo of Sanders wearing a parka and the handmade mittens at the inauguration went viral, fans and foes alike began editing the Senator into still lifes, movie posters, and even famous paintings.
The now-sold out merchandise with the photo, dubbed “Chairman Sanders,” was first placed on his website last Thursday. The first item available sold out in under 30 minutes, with each additional drop selling out shortly after.
“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 statement to CBS News.
“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.”
Proceeds from the sales were donated directly to a variety of charities in Vermont, including Area Agencies on Aging, Vermont Parent Child Network, Senior Centers in Vermont, and Bistate Primary Care, amongst others.
The mittens Sanders wore were handmade by Jen Ellis, a Vermont schoolteacher who made them out of recycled material and gifted him a pair.
“When [Sanders] wore them to the inauguration, I was just blown away,” Ellis told CBS News. “I mean, people wear famous fashion designers to the inauguration, and there was Bernie, wearing mittens that I made, you know, in my craft room, with a sewing machine that my mother gave to me when I was 12.”
His coat, which is made by Burton Snowboards, prompted an additional donation of 50 jackets to the Burlington Department for Children and Families in Sanders’ name.
Brendan Smialowski, a photographer with Getty Images, captured the image of Sanders. The photo agency said it will donate proceeds from the photo to Meals on Wheels of America.