Sun | Jan 23, 2022

#BettyWhiteChallenge raising money and awareness for animals

Published:Saturday | January 15, 2022 | 12:10 AM
A man walks a dog past a new mural of the late actress Betty White by artist Corie Mattie, on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Mattie added a QR code to the mural so people walking by can donate to the local shelter Wagmor Pets Dog Rescue in honour of White, an ani
A man walks a dog past a new mural of the late actress Betty White by artist Corie Mattie, on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Mattie added a QR code to the mural so people walking by can donate to the local shelter Wagmor Pets Dog Rescue in honour of White, an animal welfare advocate. White died on December 31 at age 99.

The late Betty White was a tireless lifetime advocate for animals, from caring for those without homes to launching her own weekly TV show, The Pet Set, dedicated to her celebrity friends and their pets.

Her most far-reaching contribution, though, maybe yet to come: On Monday, fans of White will be poised to donate to animal welfare charities and shelters as part of what’s been dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge. And animal welfare non-profits are gearing up to capitalise on the viral tribute to the star of The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland on what would have been her 100th birthday.

“I’ve had many conversations with Betty about animal welfare, and I know she’s looking down from heaven and really smiling,” said Robin Ganzert, who leads American Humane, an animal welfare organisation that White was involved with for more than 60 years.

“She’ll be smiling on her birthday,” she said. “And she’ll be smiling about the lives she’s changed.”

It isn’t exactly clear who started the #BettyWhiteChallenge on social media shortly after White’s death on December 31. However it began, the idea – to donate US$5 to a local animal rescue organisation in White’s name on her birthday – quickly took off and drew support from celebrities like actors Mark Hamill and George Takei on Twitter.

Traffic to American Humane’s website spiked after White’s passing. Ganzert said donations, too, have increased. The non-profit is waiting to reveal by how much until more gifts flood in, including sizable donations it’s expecting from some donors.

FUNDRAISING APPEALS

During the decades in which White was involved with the organisation, she made fundraising appeals and served on its board and as a presenter and judge on its televised show featuring ‘hero’ dogs. During tapings of The Pet Set in the early 1970s, Ganzert said, White would have American Humane representatives on set to ensure that animals were safe. In 2012, the non-profit honoured her with its highest award, the National Humanitarian Medal.

Ganzert would also give White a photo book each year of the animals the organisation helped.

“She kept those out on her coffee table,” Ganzert said. “And (it) always touched me whenever we would visit.”

Best Friends Animal Society, a Utah-based animal welfare organisation, has already raised US$25,000 in donations made in White’s name, according to the group’s chief mission officer Holly Sizemore. The group has promoted the #BettyWhiteChallenge broadly across its social media channels to drum up support both for its work and other organisations.

North Shore Animal League America, a no-kill animal rescue and adoption organisation, plans to engage new #BettyWhiteChallenge donors through a mix of social media appeals and invitations to visit its adoption centre in Port Washington, New York. It is also dedicating its next 100 animal rescues to White in honour of her 100th birthday.

The organisation has received a donation from the Hallmark Channel in honour of White, part of a tribute that also includes a Golden Girls marathon and her Hallmark movie The Lost Valentine on January 17.