Betty White would surely be pleased to see how fans celebrated her 100th birthday.
The beloved American actress and comedian died Dec. 31, shortly before her 100th birthday Jan. 17. A fundraising campaign called the #BettyWhiteChallenge then appeared on social media, encouraging people to donate at least $5 to an animal rescue or shelter on or around Jan. 17 in her honor.
This week, animal welfare organizations nationwide have reported an overwhelming response to the #BettyWhiteChallenge, with monetary donations that far exceeded most expectations.
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Local response to the challenge has been very positive as well — and that support has helped to sustain these organizations during a typically quiet time of year, according to representatives from animal shelters and organizations in and around Somerset County.
Humane Society of Somerset County
Donations to the Humane Society of Somerset County came in steadily on Monday evening, said Alisa Murphy, board president. She estimated that the organization has received at least 80 monetary donations since Monday, both online and through the mail.
The total amount of those donations has not yet been tallied, she said, but she estimates it to be at least $1,000.
“It was a very nice surprise,” Murphy said about the challenge. “It was sad we lost Betty White, but it’s nice that even after she passed, she is making an impact and helping animals.”
The funds are to help the humane society cover the animals’ medical bills and provide for daily needs such as food, bedding and cleaning supplies.
Anyone who wants to make a donation can do so any time of the year, in various ways, Murphy said. Donations of any amount can be made online at somersetpets.com/donate/wish-list, or by mailing a check to the Humane Society of Somerset County, P.O. Box 182, Somerset, PA 15501.
Amazon customers can order specific items from the society’s “wish list” or they can shop through Amazon Smile and choose the Humane Society of Somerset County as their preferred charitable organization.
Volunteers are also needed to walk the dogs — walkers must be at least 18 years of age — cuddle with the cats or help with daily cleaning, dishes and laundry. Used washers and dryers that are in good working condition are needed as well.
“Betty was always an animal lover, and this (challenge) is a testimony to what a good person she was,” Murphy said. “I think she would be honored to see how many people reached out to honor her.”
Humane Society of Cambria County
The Humane Society of Cambria County created a Facebook fundraising page especially for the #BettyWhiteChallenge, which has raised $5,320. People are also donating online at the society’s website, dropping off personal checks, sending checks in the mail and either ordering “wish list” items online or delivering supplies in person, Executive Director Jessica Vamos said.
“It’s been an overwhelming response,” she said. “It’s exceeded any expectation I had.”
The contributions help pay for medical care that these animals often need, as well as everyday needs such as food, bedding, toys and cleaning supplies. Customers who order from Amazon or chewy.com can also order products from the society’s “wish list” and have them delivered to the shelter.
“This has turned out to be a really unique opportunity for shelters,” Vamos said. “Typically, we receive a huge influx of donations over the (Christmas) holidays, then there’s a huge drop in donations in January.
“The needs of our animal shelter never stop. The need changes daily, but there’s always a need.”
Domino’s Pizza fundraiser
Three Domino’s Pizza locations in Cambria and Somerset counties were part of a multi-county fundraiser Jan. 17 in honor of the #BettyWhiteChallenge.
A percentage of all sales made that day at the Domino’s store locations in Johnstown and Somerset were to be donated to the Humane Society of Cambria County and the Humane Society of Somerset County, respectively.
The event raised $223 for the Somerset County shelter and at least $200 for the Cambria County organization, said Steph Hatch, director of operations for Team Portzza, the local franchise operator.
“We’re still working out the total for Cambria County,” she said. “We’re very happy with how (the event) turned out. Our customers are awesome.”
Bedford County Humane Society
Donations have also been received through the organization’s website, as well as by mail and in-person deliveries, according to a staff person who answered the telephone. Shelter Manager Janet Gates was not available for comment.
Fayette Friends of Animals
Funding from the #BettyWhiteChallenge is also helping Fayette Friends of Animals in Uniontown provide for the animals in their care — including a recent rescue named Panda and her 10 newborn puppies. Panda was surrendered to the shelter on Jan. 14 and the puppies were born on Monday, Executive Director Emily Ellis said.
A #BettyWhiteChallenge post on their Facebook page raised $6,175 for the organization, and people have been mailing and delivering donations as well.
“The response is wonderful ... it exceeded any expectations I had,” Ellis said. “Anything we receive is a huge help, but this response blew us away. We will put it to good use.”
She said donors can also order items from the organization’s “wish list” at Amazon or chewy.com and have the order shipped directly to the shelter. People who can donate some of their time to walk dogs and socialize with the cats are needed as well.
Any of those types of contributions can honor White and her legacy of caring for animals, Ellis added.
“Betty would be so proud. I think she would love to know what the impact (of the challenge) has been,” she said.
This article originally appeared on The Daily American: How the Betty White Challenge raised thousands for animal shelters