Fans around the world continue to mourn the late great Betty White, who died last month at the age of 99, just weeks before her 100th birthday.
While best known for being a brilliant comedic actress who starred on classic sitcoms like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, White was also known for her deep love of animals. Throughout her life, she used her fame to advocate for animals and support important causes.
So as a fitting way to honor the legendary star, fans decided to donate to animal organizations in memory of Betty White. And yesterday, on the star’s 100th birthday, many shelters saw a big increase in donations.
Almost immediately after Betty White passed away on December 31, grieving fans started looking for a way to honor the star’s legacy.
One idea caught on quickly on social media: the #BettyWhiteChallenge, in which fans would donate money to their favorite local animal organization on January 17, which would’ve been the actress’ 100th birthday (and began trending as #BettyWhiteDay.)
According to CBS News, the viral campaign possibly began with a Twitter user replying to a memorial tweet by the actor Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside White in The Proposal.
Even before her birthday, many shelters reported getting donations in Betty’s name in the days following her death. According to one tweet, the Nashville Humane Association reported that “several donations have already come in…and the message is simple. For Betty.”
Animal shelters get donations
Yesterday was Betty White’s birthday, and many fans followed through on the viral challenge: many media outlets reported a huge increase in donations to their local animal shelters yesterday.
According to WPVI, open-intake animal shelter ACCT Philly received a whopping $50,000, all from people donating as little as $5 in Betty White’s name.
“We are so honored so many individuals chose to honor Betty White by donating to help local animals in need!” Sarah Barnett, Acting Co-Executive Director of ACCT Philly, told the network.
From Colorado to Maine, shelters around the country raked in thousands of dollars in new donations, all thanks to fans of Betty White.
The Lynchburg Humane Society, in Virginia, was one of the many lucky shelters to benefit from the campaign, receiving $10,000 in donations.
The grateful shelters all had one thing to say: “Thank you for being a friend.”
“Thank you for coming together for this common cause; I know they are making this an annual giving day in her memory,” Michelle Thomas of the Humane Society told WSET. “Again, we are so appreciative.”
Trisha Yearwood gets involved
Even celebrities got involved with the challenge: country star Trisha Yearwood was one of the many people moved by White’s animal activism and decided to do her part to help.
“Everybody loves Betty White. I’ve been reading about the influx of donations to pet charities and shelters across the nation since Betty’s passing, and I think she is up there smiling so big that this is how the world is showing her how much we love her,” Yearwood told People.
On January 17, Yearwood joined the #BettyWhiteChallenge, encouraging donations to her own pet charity, the Dottie’s Yard Fund, which supports rescue dogs. The fund was set up in honor of Dottie, the late dog of Yearwood and her husband Garth Brooks.
The campaign was a success: Yearwood received “over $24k in 15 minutes” thanks to fans donating in honor of Betty White.
“Seriously, thank you for being a friend and doing the #BettyWhiteChallenge with me!” Yearwood tweeted.
“A tribute to how Betty lived her life”
It has been an incredible outpouring of support in honor of the late star, and friends of Betty White say she would’ve been deeply touched by the donations in her name.
“The outpouring of love, the amazing amount of donations being given to all types of animal organizations is such a tribute to how Betty lived her life,” Jeff Witjas, White’s friend and longtime agent, told People.
“As Betty would say, ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart.'”
The donations are an appropriate tribute to Betty White, who spent decades supporting animal charities — and some of her most inspiring acts were done completely anonymously.
For decades, White was a benefactor and board member of many animal organizations, including the Morris Animal Foundation, the Los Angeles Zoo and the American Humane Association.
After her passing, they wrote tributes honoring her decades of work on behalf of animals.
“It is hard to imagine a world without Betty in it,” said Tiffany Grunert, President/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “She was a tremendous animal advocate who tirelessly supported the work of Morris Animal Foundation to improve the health of animals globally.”
“We will miss her wit, her intelligence and, most of all, her love of animals and commitment to advancing their health. She was a true inspiration to our staff, her fellow trustees and all of our supporters.”
One particular story of Betty White helping animals went viral after her passing: in 2004, ahead of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, White paid to evacuate penguins and sea otters from the Audubon Nature Institute.
While the flight reportedly cost about $70,000, White funded the evacuation anonymously: the story was only made public after her death last month.
“She did not ask for fanfare; she just wanted to help,” the Audubon Nature Institute wrote.
We know that Betty White would’ve loved to see so many people supporting animal shelters in her honor. She’s definitely up there smiling.
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