The Bert Movement: An Unexpected Force of Student Philanthropy


Photo courtesy @bertmovement

Westerlund poses with fellow students Nico Campo (12) and Katelin Gaffaney (12), all donning their Bert Shirts. They wore this for “Bert Shirt Friday,” a weekly occurrence created by Westerlund in which everyone who has a Bert Shirt wears it to school.

Roddy McLellan

You may have seen Middleton High School students don blue t-shirts with a cartoon character and the name Bert on them. What you may not know is that these shirts were created by Nicky Westerlund, a senior, as part of the Bert Movement, a charity that originated from a simple party game with his friends. 

“I was playing a Jackbox Party Pack game called Tee-KO where you make T-shirts. […] And we got the picture of the guy and the name Bert and somehow it came together,” Westerlund said. “Every one of my friends thought it was the funniest thing in the world, so I decided to make it a real shirt.” 

Jackbox Party Pack is a party game based around audience creativity. In this specific game, Tee-KO, players create T-shirts and vote for the funniest ones to win the game. On top of that, everything players create in Jackbox is sourced from the people playing the game around them, meaning people have the legal rights to buy and sell their designs as they please. The creators of Jackbox have realized this and now offer the ability to buy a physical version of any T-shirt players create. Westerlund used this feature to produce the original Bert shirts.

“Soon after that, a bunch of other people were like ‘Hey, that’s kind of funny. Can I have one?’ And I said yeah, sure. Let me just start a business. And then, after starting the business, I realized I really don’t need the money. So why not donate it?” Westerlund said. He has used the money from the shirts to support multiple charities, depending on what he feels is most deserving at the time. 

The Bert Movement is simple. People support the charity by going to the website and buying the one T-shirt design they sell: a dark blue shirt with a man and the name Bert printed on it. The T-shirts are sold for $19, and the profits go to charity.

“The charity changes every month. […] When I started doing this, it was at the peak of the conflict with Russia and Ukraine,” Westerlund said. Westerlund himself is Ukrainian, which makes donating to the war efforts more meaningful for him. 

Westerlund also contributed to causes close to home and even helped one of his friends whose house burned down last winter. After the fire, the recipient of the Bert shirts’ profits switched from Ukraine to his friend’s family in order to help them “get back up on their feet,” Westerlund explained. After that, he chose to support the American Cancer Society, which is the organization the Bert Movement currently supports.

Despite the serious issues it supports, the Bert Movement suffers from a lack of people taking it seriously. Westerlund believes that “when people perceive the shirts, they just think it’s sort of a stupid thing.” Still, he hopes that people can get past the laid-back appearance of the movement and see the real value that it brings to the community. Westerlund simply wants people to see that the movement “helps out the people that need help.”

The Bert Movement is a charity that has helped countless people, from people enduring the war between Ukraine and Russia to community members here in Middleton and Cross Plains. Westerlund has created something incredible out of something as simple as a party game with his friends, and we should all be inspired by his drive to help other people. The Bert Movement is a strong reminder that charitable acts are not something that have to be serious and formal and that anyone can contribute to making a difference in the world. Now go buy a Bert Shirt!