After surge in donations, animal groups across Canada thank Betty White fans for being a friend

·4 min read
Betty White with her cat, T.K. White. The late American entertainment icon was an animal lover and inspired many to donate to animal groups this week.  (Submitted by Adam McCarron - image credit)
Betty White with her cat, T.K. White. The late American entertainment icon was an animal lover and inspired many to donate to animal groups this week. (Submitted by Adam McCarron - image credit)

Animal rescue organizations across Canada saw a spike in donations this week as the world celebrated what would have been Betty White's 100th birthday.

Many people inspired by White's love of animals took part in the Betty White Challenge by donating to animal groups.

The Golden Girls star died Dec. 31, ahead of her Jan. 17 birthday.

After her death, a message with a hashtag citing the challenge spread rapidly on social media among animal lovers and organizations in the United States and Canada.

Jenna Bye, executive director of Save Our Scruff in Ontario, said the volunteer-run organization received $13,000. The support was heartfelt, the Burlington resident said.

"It feels special. As an organization that works really hard to support animals, it's really nice to, no questions asked, have people wanting to find a way to give even just a little and it's 100 per cent noticeable as an organization."

The amount was a huge spike to their usual donations.

Bye said she was also happy to see the topic of animal welfare highlighted.

"I also found online on [Monday], just so much tagging, so much animal welfare conversation happening. It was really just nice to see."

Across the country, animal rescue and adoption organizations raised tens of thousands thanks to the campaign, including:

  • The Ontario SPCA & Humane Society, which received over $120,000.

  • The Winnipeg Humane Society, which received around $41,000.

  • The BC SPCA, which saw more than $400,000 come in.

  • The Nova Scotia SPCA with $78,000.

  • The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society, which received over $121,000.

The Hamilton/Burlington SPCA received over $32,000. Animal outreach manager Michelle Macnab said the donations will be used toward providing "care for the many animals in our shelter as they await their forever homes," as well as their Pet Wellness program.

Tribute to a furry friend

Sarah Fahey said she donated to Save Our Scruff not just because of the challenge, but as a way to give back to the organization that helped her find her furry companion, Canelo.

"My boyfriend Chris and I started out fostering Canelo, but as we spent time with him and started putting in work [training, relationship building], we realized he was a great fit in our lives and applied to adopt him.

"I think that my donation was just a way to give back and support [Save our Scruff] because without them, we wouldn't have found Canelo — or he wouldn't have found us."

Submitted by Sarah Fahey
Submitted by Sarah Fahey

For Melissa McClelland, who co-founded the Hamilton-based Ladybird Animal Sanctuary with two of her closest friends, the challenge brought her organization full circle.

"We're in our forties now, but we met when we were 19 and we've been friends forever. We have always joked that in our future, we [will be like] the Golden Girls because we're going to open this farm together and we're going to be like crabby old ladies telling jokes."

McClelland said the community's support went above and beyond.

Submitted by Ladybird Animal Sanctuary
Submitted by Ladybird Animal Sanctuary

"We had raised approximately $22,000 just on that day alone, so definitely far exceeded our expectations. So what a lovely thing to happen and what a lovely way to honour [Betty White's] life," she said.

"Every penny that we raise goes towards helping the animals. We're volunteer run, so [the money] goes towards vet bills, any surgeries or medications that these animals need — anything to take care to provide for the animals."

A fundraising 'miracle' at a crucial time

For Ontario's Niagara Dog Rescue, the donations came in at a perfect time.

"January is probably the worst month to get donations," said financial administrator Cheryl Beland, "but with all our restrictions, COVID and not being able to do our normal fundraising, this has just been a miracle."

The non-profit has raised over $21,000 since last Wednesday as part of the challenge, Beland said.

Submitted by Roci Freeman
Submitted by Roci Freeman

"Some donations were trickling in [since last week], but honestly, come the Monday, the 17th, it was, it was just amazing. It just seemed like one [donation] was coming after the other."

Roci Freeman, founder of Niagara Dog Rescue, said all the donated funds will go toward "helping our dogs find loving homes," especally animals that need extensive medical care.

"We have had a number of dogs that have required extensive surgeries, and some of them have had two and three surgeries … half of our funds will probably go to that.

"We are a not-for-profit charitable organization, so all the money that comes in will go out to save the next group, and the next group and the next group."

Beland said she loved that the #BettyWhiteChallenge put a spotlight on the cause.

"This wasn't just about the donations, the money coming in. It's really also about the awareness that challenge has brought to not just Niagara Dog Rescue, but to animal welfare everywhere."

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