MINNEAPOLIS — The Betty White Challenge is simple: If you love Betty White, donate $5 in her honor to an animal shelter or welfare group.
The challenge became a way for people to honor the late actress ahead of what would've been her 100th birthday and her animal welfare advocacy.
"As soon as she had passed away, people were reaching out right away, wanting to make donations in her memory," Azure Davis said.
Davis, the founder and executive director of Ruff Start Rescue, an organization that saves 3,400 animals a year, says the donations kind of took her by surprise in the beginning.
"Any situation like this, in memory of someone, in tribute, you don't expect them, and you can't plan for those," Davis said. "And when they do happen, for a nonprofit like Ruff Start, it means a lot for us. I don't think people always understand that we don't get state and federal funding; it's individual donations that make up the core of what we do."
Founder of Secondhand Hounds, Rachel Mairose says she felt a similar way.
"It is kind of an interesting way to think about it, because obviously loss is very hard for people and it's nice to be able to honor that loss by making a tribute gift or a memorial gift," she said. "It wasn't something I expected. It wasn't like when Betty White died, I thought it was going to be a benefit for Secondhand Hounds in any way shape or form, and yet, now it has become that."
Both Davis and Mairose emphasize that the donations in White's name, no matter how small, are going to tangible things.
For Ruff Start Rescue, it's going to help a dog named Cowgirl who is fighting an ear infection and a possible neurological issue.
For Secondhand Hounds, the donations will help Betty White, an unclaimed bull dog mix who is coming up from Texas for a tumor in her leg.
Vet bills are some of of the biggest ongoing expenses for animal welfare nonprofits.
"Our vet bills — they're over $600,000 a year; that's minimum," Davis said. "Our vetting expenses are something we're constantly trying to fundraise for, and we can't ever predict when an animal comes into the rescue, what might be wrong, or what kind of conditions they might have. There's a lot of unexpected vet bills that come up."
Plus, the timing — although the loss of White is tragic — has been a blessing.
"Quarter one is always moving at a snail's pace for every nonprofit," Mairose said. "You do have in Minnesota, Give to the Max Day, holidays, and people are generous at the end of the year. In January, February, March, you hit the lull and you're not seeing those gifts — so the timing is great for nonprofits. Especially animal rescues for this to be at this timing, and hopefully it will spur people into maybe annual giving or giving throughout the year."
If donations aren't possible, both Davis and Mairose said sharing their campaigns on social media would be helpful.
You can find their Facebook pages here:
Betty White would've turned 100 on Jan. 17, 2022. She passed away on New Year's Eve, days after she suffered a stroke.
Other companies are getting in on viral #BettyWhiteChallenge, including food delivery service Bite Squad. On Sunday and Monday, Jan. 16-17, Bite Squad said it will donate a portion of its delivery fees to American Humane. To make sure your order qualifies, use the code "BETTY" at checkout.
Uber also donated $50,000 to the ASPCA to make grants to local shelters. Through Jan. 17, customers can use the code LOKI to get $10 to spend in the Uber Pet Supplies hub, while supplies last.
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