'Betty White Challenge' raises $70,000 for Ottawa Humane Society

A social media trend to donate money to animal shelters in the late Betty White's name raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Ottawa Humane Society.

Monday would have been White's 100th birthday. The beloved actor passed away Dec. 31 following a stroke six days earlier. The star of shows such as "Golden Girls" and "Hot in Cleveland" was a renowned supporter of animal welfare causes. She was involved with the American Humane Society for more than 60 years.

The "Betty White Challenge" was started on social media, but it's not known by whom. It encouraged people to donate $5 to a local animal rescue organization in White's name on Monday.

Bruce Roney, president and CEO of the Ottawa Humane Society, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" Tuesday that the challenge brought in a stunning amount.

"I heard about this, I thought we would receive some money, but I have to say I've been very taken aback by the result," Roney said. "We have, to date, raised $70,000 in Betty White's name. It's incredible."

Roney said the humane society set up a special webpage to direct people to the best way to make donations. He said it was one of the largest—and easiest—fundraising drives they've ever had.

"All we did was set up a page to let people know where they can donate if they chose and the results have been absolutely incredible," he said. "We set up a specific page because we wanted to know. We wanted to be able tell our community about their generosity and about Betty White's legacy, so we know what came in for that reason."

The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on veterinarians, emergency animal hospitals and pet owners themselves. Roney said the past two years have been busy.

"There have been tremendous challenges over the last two years," he explained. "This was a problem that was starting before COVID, and it's getting considerably worse."

The Alta Vista Animal Hospital, Ottawa’s largest emergency veterinary clinic, was closed over Christmas and New Year's because of a pandemic-related staff shortage. The clinic reopened Jan. 4.

The money raised by the Betty White Challenge will help the humane society manage through the pandemic.

"We're in a pandemic and that doesn't mean animals aren't in distress," Roney said. "There are animals in here today and there will be animals tomorrow who need that help and it's just a really good feeling to know that we could be here for them because of people like Betty White and the people who honoured her life."

Ottawa's humane society wasn't the only beneficiary of Betty White's legacy. The Kingston Humane Society said on social media that donors gave more than $39,000 Monday.

"Thank you for being a friend to all the animals Betty. Your compassion, spirit and commitment to animal welfare lives on," a Facebook post said.

Other animal welfare groups, like the Ottawa Dog Rescue, also benefitted from the challenge. Local deck and patio company Stone Deck Innovations said it would be donating 5 per cent of its sales in January to the Ottawa Dog Rescue in honour of Betty White.

Roney said the outpouring of support for animal welfare shows how much White's life and legacy matters to people.

"One of the things that I read that just really moved me, someone wrote that Betty White's passing at 99 was considered by us all way too early," he said. "It's such a tribute to her life and her work."