While the October 2017 wildfires raged through my hometown of Santa Rosa, California, I designed the following “Rose-ilience” image. It's a nod to the tenacity and regrowth of Santa Rosa's namesake and an illustration of the support and resilience I witnessed in my community during this natural disaster.
This image became the center of a fire-relief fundraising campaign I started on October 10, 2017, and have been running on my own with help from amazing volunteers. By the end of 2017, I'd raised $25,000 for fire relief solely from the sale of Rose-ilience items, and partnered with other organizations who've used this image to raise an additional $35,000+ and other nonmonetary support.
The campaign continues.
The Rose-ilience campaign started as an enamel lapel pin, which I made available for presale online on October 12 while I commenced production. In response to demand, I expanded my offerings to include T-shirts, tote bags, and decals. The Rose-ilience pin was shared over 2,000 times on Facebook, reported on by 8 different news outlets, and purchased by supporters in 42 states and 8 countries.
I had 3 goals:
Give positivity a visual, too.
While photos, videos, and maps tracking the destruction kept us informed and alert during the wildfires, I felt that the community outreach and support I was witnessing needed a shareable, tangible visual, too. The North Bay is not defined by this disaster and the fellowship we exhibited in the wake of it is not unique to us. I wanted to create an image that transcended devastation and our city limits while being inspired by both.
Give the community a sense of collective identity.
I wanted to make an affordable, recognizable icon that anyone, of any age, could wear every day. The image is a recognition of our collective loss and suffering, but also a show of support and a celebration of our hope, solidarity, and kindness. Santa Rosa is a bilingual community, so it was important to me to create an image that spoke for itself, without relying on language.
Give those with small budgets a way to contribute.
My desire to help with fire relief felt disproportionate to my limited means, and a donation of $15 or so felt too inconsequential to bother. I wanted to create something that encouraged people of similar budgets to contribute, and in return offers a badge of recognition of sorts. Wearing the Rose-ilience image is not only a signal of allegiance but also equates to a tangible donation.
Up until August 2017, I had been living in New York City, where I had gotten my MFA in illustration, and the move back to my hometown two months before the fires was an expensive process in which I had gotten rid of everything but the bare necessities. As the only member of my family who was not evacuated,* I opened my home in downtown Santa Rosa to my displaced family, but without much excess to my name I felt powerless to donate funds or goods beyond my immediate household. But I was naturally inspired to illustrate the fellowship I was witnessing as my community mobilized, and the resulting image became not only a celebration of our civic character but an opportunity to generate funds. (*Everyone is safe.)
After a short but avid period of design and research, I started production on enamel pins and made them available for presale just 3 days after the fires started. In its first 48 hours, my one-woman Rose-ilience campaign had raised $17,000. This was the first unique design program to come forward to raise funds for North Bay fire relief, inspiring similar efforts in Sonoma County and, after the December fires in Southern California, in Ventura as well.
In my first quarter, I individually raised $25,000 solely from the sale of Rose-ilience items.
These funds went to charities supporting basic need:
*My third intended charity, the City of Santa Rosa's Tubbs Fire Victims Fund, reached its goal and was discontinued before I had an opportunity to donate.
As my campaign moves into 2018, I will continue to support the RCU Fire Fund (which also supports the Food Bank, among several other charities) as long as it remains open to contributions. In its second quarter, Rose-ilience will also support undocumented families affected by the fires (Undocufund) as well as post-fire rebuilding and environmental protection efforts (charities to be announced).
It was my great pleasure to license the Rose-ilience image to the following local organizations, who have more than doubled the funds I was able to raise from my sales alone. Collectively these efforts raised more than $35,000 (in addition to my own fundraising) as well as other nonmonetary support:
- SAL Auto, a nonprofit repair shop that funds auto repairs needed by low-income single mothers, provides services at cost for those displaced by wildfires
- Boy Scouts of America Troop 32's "A Thousand Thanks Breakfast" generated more than $22,000 for the RCU Fire Fund and 3,000 pounds of donated food for the Redwood Empire Food Bank
- Faith Tattoo and Jared Powell of Glass Beetle Tattoo offered the Rose-ilience image as a tattoo design in their fundraising efforts, garnering roughly $12,000 for charity
- Brotherhood Board Shop featured the image on a limited-edition skateboard deck, raising $2,000 for fire relief
- Law for All provides know-your-rights materials for those affected by, recovering from, and rebuilding after the fires
I'm also pleased to announce that the Rose-ilience image will be the logo for the upcoming Luther Burbank Rose Parade & Festival in May 2018, which marks Santa Rosa's sesquicentennial (150th anniversary). This year's theme, "Together We Rose," honors first responders. By partnering with me, the first local designer they've collaborated with in recent history, and my Rose-ilience campaign, the Rose Parade pays tribute to the community's "second responders" as well.
Thank you to those who have shared their support and spread the word about Rose-ilience on Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, and beyond by tagging @mikaylabutchart, using the hashtags #roseilience and #mikaylabutchart, or by leaving me a positive review.
When I drew a rose in October 2017 I could not have known I was about take on 15-hour-day/7-days-a-week workloads for the next few months. The success of this campaign would not have been possible without the various contributions and support of the following family members, friends, and neighbors:
Frank Freitas CPA
I would also like to thank the following for their generous support:
Redwood Credit Union
Friedman Brothers Home Improvement
On Fire! fireplace shop
Marketplace on Fourth
and the Musuems of Sonoma County, who have featured me in the ongoing exhibition #SonomaStrong
The Press Democrat
Santa Rosa native raises $20,000 for Sonoma County fire victims through ROSE-ilience pin
In remembrance of those who lost the most
North Bay Fire Relief Fund reaches $18 million in donations for victims
Events rescheduled, canceled in wake of Sonoma County wildfires
The Oak Leaf
The ROSE-ilience of a devastated community