The late Betty White has been a lifelong animal advocate, from caring for those without a home to launching her own weekly TV show, The Pet Set, dedicated to her celebrity friends and their pets.
However, her most far-reaching contribution may be yet to come: on Monday, White fans will be ready to donate to charities and animal shelters in what has been dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge. And animal welfare nonprofits are gearing up to capitalize on viral tributes to the Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland star on the day she would have turned 100 years old.
“I’ve had many conversations with Betty about animal welfare and I know she’s looking down from heaven and genuinely smiling,” said Robin Ganzert, who heads American Humane, an animal welfare organization for which White has worked for over 60 years.
“She will smile on her birthday,” she said. “And she will smile about the lives she has changed.”
It’s not entirely clear who launched the #BettyWhiteChallenge on social media shortly after White’s death on Dec. 31. Be that as it may, the idea – to donate $5 to a local animal rescue organization on White’s behalf on her birthday – quickly took off and gained support from celebrities such as actors Mark Hamill and George Takei on Twitter.
Traffic to the American Humane website skyrocketed after White’s death. Ganzert said donations have also increased. The nonprofit is waiting to show how much until more gifts come in, including the hefty donations it expects from some donors.
During the decades that White was involved with the organization, she called for fundraising and served on its board, as well as host and judge on its television show featuring hero dogs. Ganzert said that during the recording of “The Pet Set” in the early 1970s, White invited American Humane representatives to the set to ensure the safety of the animals. In 2012, a non-profit organization honored her with its highest honor, the National Humanities Medal.
Ganzert also gave White a photo book of animals the organization helped each year.
“She kept them on her coffee table,” Gansert said. “And (it) always touched me whenever we visited.”
The Animal Best Friends Society, a Utah-based animal welfare organization, has raised $25,000 in donations made on White’s behalf, according to the group’s chief missionary, Holly Sizemore. The group promoted the #BettyWhiteChallenge extensively on their social media to gain support for both their work and other organizations.
“That’s the beauty of animal welfare,” Sizemore said. “Everyone has something to support. There is so much good work going on and so many opportunities, especially right now, to make the world a better place for people and animals.”
Sizemore hopes Monday will bring a lot of donations and attention to animal welfare.