Betty White left a legacy of animal advocacy — and inspired others to join donate, adopt, and support
On what would have been her 100th birthday, people are coming together to honor the late Betty White — by donating to an animal shelter or rescue in her name.
White, who passed away on December 31st, 2021, was known for her starring roles on The Golden Girls and Mary Tyler Moore Show — and was also celebrated for maintaining a strong sense of humor throughout her life.
"I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much."
"Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever," said Jeff Witjas, White's agent and close friend, in a statement to PEOPLE.
"I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again."
What is the Betty White Challenge?
In the days after her death, the internet was filled with people honoring her life. And many people decided one of the best ways to do this was by continuing her passion by showing care for animals.
Called the #BettyWhiteChallenge, the movement calls on animal — and Betty White — lovers to donate $5 (or any amount) to a shelter or rescue before or on her birthday, January 17th — and give White "the movement she deserves."
“Almost immediately following the press regarding her passing we started receiving donations,” said Susan Taylor in an interview with MarketWatch. Taylor is the executive director of Actors and Others for Animals, a nonprofit that offers financial assistance for pet owners to spay or neuter their pets in California.
According to Taylor, her nonprofit received donations from 105 people totaling more than $5000 — all in White's name — in just the four days after her death.
And the campaign is sweeping the United States — and even globally — raising money and support for large and small nonprofits that support all kinds of animals.
Betty White's Animal History of Animal Advocacy
White was a lifelong animal advocate who worked to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets, and advocate for animal rights around the world.
"Betty White has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to helping animals in need, including dedicated support for local shelters and animal welfare endeavors, fiercely promoting and protecting animal interests in her entertainment projects, and personally adopting many rescued animals"
“Betty White has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to helping animals in need, including dedicated support for local shelters and animal welfare endeavors, fiercely promoting and protecting animal interests in her entertainment projects, and personally adopting many rescued animals,” Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO, told TODAY in an email.
According to PEOPLE, she used 100% of the dues from her fan club, Bet's Pets, to support animal rescue charities.
In a 2009 interview with TV Guide, White described her animal advocacy: “I'm the luckiest person in the world. My life is divided in absolute half: half animals, half show business. I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal work!”
She supported organizations like American Humane and the Best Friends Animal Society, served on the board of trustees at the nonprofit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) since 1974, and was a volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
In 2009, White received the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement.
According to GLAZA's president, White helped ensure the zoo's animals had quality habitats and enrichment — something the Los Angeles Zoo is now renowned for.
She also set up funds to provide immediate support for wildlife rescue efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters, like the wildfires in Australia in 2020, helped make the world a better place for people assisted by guide dogs, and so much more.
How to Join the ‘Betty White Challenge’
You can join the #BettyWhiteChallenge by making a donation to your local shelter or rescue — or to animal rescue organizations.
If you already have an animal-related nonprofit in mind, make a donation there.
If not, you can search for local animal shelters in your community and make a donation in honor of Betty White.
You can also donate to national and global animal rescue organizations like Best Friends — a nonprofit that “operates the nation's largest sanctuary for homeless animals; provides adoption, spay/neuter, and more” or IFAW — a global organization that “rescues and rehabilitates animals, and helps to protect their natural habitats.”
Whether you have $5, $50, or $500, your donation can make a huge difference. Especially because thousands of Betty White fans from around the world are joining in to do the same this week.
You can also sign up as a volunteer at a local shelter — or even consider taking on the responsibility of fostering or adopting a pet.
And lastly, don’t forget to share about whatever actions on social media with the hashtag #BettyWhiteChallenge. (Feel free to include this article too — to help inspire others to join you.)