Tomorrow (Jan. 17) would've been the late Betty White’s 100th birthday; she died on Dec. 31. A recent internet trend called the #BettyWhiteChallenge has been encouraging people to donate to local animal shelters and other animal conservation organizations to honour the legendary actor’s commitment to animal rights throughout her life. It culminates on her centennial celebration, where you can expect to see the viral effort fill your news feeds.
Some years ago, Samaritan talked to rock guitarist Slash about the ad he did with the Mary Tyler Moore/Golden Girls star, for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. She supported a range of animal-focused charities and causes.
After news of her passing began to circulate, the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans shared a story on their Twitter account of White’s previous generosity. The conservatory tweeted out on Dec. 31:
“We lost a conservationist, animal advocate, and friend. When the penguins & sea otters were evacuated to @MontereyAq for Hurricane Katrina, Betty White paid for the plane to relocate them. She did not ask for fanfare; she just wanted to help. #ThankYouForBeingAFriend.”
The message gained traction across social media and grew into a movement calling for more donations to animal rights causes.
The story was unknown to the public before Audubon Nature Institute’s tweet, but White’s commitment to animal rights causes was known throughout her life. She worked with the Morris Animal Foundation for over 50 years, and even started the Betty White Wildlife Fund through the same organization.
"The Betty White Wildlife Fund was established in 2010 by the much-beloved actress and animal advocate," it states on the web site. "It gives wildlife researchers timely monetary aid to respond to unexpected events – such as natural disasters and emerging diseases – that result in the immediate need for animal health research. At the time, the crisis at hand was the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and its dramatic, detrimental effects on marine life.
"Since then, the health threats to wild species, whether from disaster or emerging diseases or climate change, have only increased. But we can be prepared with funding to help wildlife researchers improve and protect the lives of wild species everywhere.
"We continue to honor the wishes of Betty White to help animals around the world have longer, healthier lives. You can become a part of that work with your gift today."
White was also a financial contributor for over 35 years to the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization.
The American Humane Society put out a statement on Dec. 31: “Betty White never met an animal she didn’t like,” thanking her for her devotion to animal rights causes.
White’s love for animals found its way into her creative side as well. She’s written two books about animals, one titled “How Pets Take Care of Us” and the other titled “Betty and Friends: My Life at the Zoo” which saw proceeds go to the Los Angeles Zoo Association. She also hosted a talk show in the early 1970s called “The Pet Set” where White would interview celebrities alongside their pets.
While donations to the Betty White Wildlife Fund are accepted, the movement encourages people to get involved with animal conservation at a local level. Donations are encouraged to any animal rights organization that serves your local community or area. If there are a lack of local options, donations can be made to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, American Wildlife Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, and Betty White Wildlife Fund.