Feb. 2, 2021 By Christina Santucci
An Astoria cat rescuer raised more than $1,000 by raffling off a crocheted Bernie Sanders doll — with a cat and a throne added to his iconic inauguration outfit.
Alexia Vullis said when she saw memes of Sanders go viral, she asked her mother, Judith, to whip up a crochet version of the Vermont senator for a fundraiser.
“Let’s raffle off this hilarious rendition of [Sanders] ~ with not only a kitty cat in his arms, but apparently he’s the King of the 7 Kingdoms 👑,” an Instagram post read.
The raffle, which ended Jan. 29, raised a total of $1,350, and the money will help pay for surgeries for four cats, including a two-month-old kitten named Hope. Hope had only one eye when she was found in Corona about three weeks ago and is in need of eye surgery.
“Most of it will go to the eye surgery. That’s the most expensive,” Vullis said.
The procedure is currently scheduled for March and will involve the removal of Hope’s remaining glands in her eye socket–so that it does not become infected. Then the kitten’s eye will be sewn shut.
Hope is one of about 20 felines that Vullis currently has available for adoption.
Vullis, who owns a dog-walking and pet-sitting business called NYC Pet Nanny, said she started rescuing cats as part of a group about seven years ago and then started doing it on her own about three years later.
Most of her rescue work is in Astoria and Long Island City.
Vullis rescues and finds homes for friendly kittens and cats, and traps, neuters and returns (TNR) feral cats to the outdoors. Some of the felines also need costly medical care.
“My whole focus is really the community,” she said of her TNR work. “We are trying to fix all of the cats so there is not overpopulation.”
Vullis estimated that she has worked with more than 300 cats to date.
In addition to the Bernie Sanders doll, Vullis raffled off a Baby Yoda cat bed over the summer, hoping to capitalize on the viral trends to raise money for her work. “It’s important for me to catch the attention of people … so I can rescue more cats,” she said.
After her raffle, Vullis learned about another Sanders doll in Texas that brought in slightly more funds for a different cause. A crocheted creation from Texas raised more than $40,000 for Meals on Wheels when it was auctioned on Jan. 26 — the winning bid was just over $20,000, and eBay pledged to match that amount.
Judith Vullis has since made two more Bernie dolls, and is selling them on eBay.