It’s been more than a week since what would have been Betty White’s 100th birthday. The actress and animal advocate died Dec. 31, 2021, just 17 days before her 100th birthday, and like in many places across the continent, those in the Cowichan Valley wishing to mark the occasion by doing something positive in her name, did so by joining what ended up being dubbed on social media, the #BettyWhiteChallenge.
In short, the challenge suggested people donate $5 to an animal welfare charity in White’s name. Lovers of the television icon did not disappoint and Cowichan animals and the organizations what care for them are better off as a result.
At the Raptor Rescue Society, the non-profit sister organization to The Raptors sanctuary, Christina Youngren confirmed they were given roughly $1,000 “in generous donations in honour of Betty”.
“People are so kind,” Youngren said.
A Home for Hooves Farm Sanctuary raised more than $4,800 thanks to the challenge.
Michelle Singleton, the sanctuary’s founder, said they’re putting the funds toward “A Forever Home for Hooves” their capital campaign to buy 50-plus acres on Vancouver Island. The group needs room to expand after taking in all of the animals from the now closed RASTA sanctuary in October.
“This money will be a huge help,” Singleton said. “We are now the largest farm sanctuary in B.C. in regards to the number of animals we look after.”
Meanwhile, they’re also flying high at Cowichan Cat Rescue.
“I am still not down from the high I got when all those donations rolled in,” said CCR’s Jean Hamilton. “No final figure yet but the online donations are pretty close to $3,000 now.”
The infusion couldn’t have come at a better time, Hamilton explained.
“It’s absolutely wonderful for a local rescue in the driest month of the year donation wise.”
What stood out to Hamilton was not how much, but who was donating.
“I noticed familiar names of regular donors but so many were names I have never seen before,” she said. “Whoever came up with this idea to honour Betty White did immeasurable good for the entire world of animal welfare. Now I am seeing people calling for this to be an annual event. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
Leon Davis, BC SPCA’s senior manager (Islands/Coastal Region) said the SPCA was flooded with donations that will be spread across the province’s various branches.
“I know we as an organization raised over $400,000,” he said. “The funds will be used at shelters across the province including Cowichan for cruelty investigation, vet care, sheltering, wildfire and flood emergency response, youth humane education programs and other services.”
“It was just mind blowing,” Davis added. “An incredible gift from an incredible lady!”
The calls for it to become an annual event suit Davis just fine.
“That would be so cool,” he said. “I’d rather have Betty here with us still, but this is an amazing legacy to remember her by!”
Cowichan’s Marsha Todd has a story about White’s connection to the BC SPCA.
Todd, who at the time was the organization’s public relations and fundraising chair, reached out to the TV star in 1990 and, if you can believe it, was able to convince her to be that year’s honourary spokesperson for the BC SPCA.
“We used to get celebrities each year to be our honourary spokesperson,” Todd explained. “[White] actually called me up and flew up to Vancouver which was very nice of her.”
The pair hit it off and after closing down the restaurant by chatting for hours after dinner one night, they met up again for lunch and talked for four hours the following day. Todd confirmed what everyone believes, White was just an all-around great individual.
“When she passed away and the BC SPCA posted a note acknowledging the #BettyWhiteChallenge, they never even had recalled that she’d been our honourary chairperson,” Todd said, saying White’s celebrity and passion for animal advocacy have indeed helped raise significant funds for the BC SPCA, but it began many decades before the #BettyWhiteChallenge ever existed.
“She truly was one of a kind and a fierce supporter of animals rights.”