- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Call it part fundraiser, part viral sensation.
An unofficial community movement came together this week to honor Betty White, as donations big and small poured in to organizations that support animal welfare throughout the country.
The actress — a longtime animal lover and activist — is best known for her roles in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls." She would have turned 100 on Monday, but died on New Year's Eve.
“Everyone really has been inspired by Betty White,” said Ann Tomassini, associate director of development at Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton. “I have to say that I think Betty is having the time of her life in heaven, seeing what has happened in her celebration 100th year.”
The #BettyWhiteChallenge has been trending since the beginning of the year, encouraging the public to make donations supporting one of White's biggest passions: animal welfare.
Tomassini said she heard about the movement from a social media post, and newspapers and media picking up the story spread the world.
“I didn’t think it would work this well,” said Sue Webb, of Stray Pets in Need in Natick. “We put it on our Facebook and then we had other volunteers and staff were sharing it on their pages.”
Donations came pouring in from “lots of new people,” Webb said. “A lot of little things, $5, $10 and a few $50s and hundreds.”
Webb said that in a space reserved for comments on her organization's Facebook page, several people wrote that their donation was in honor of Betty White, or in the name of a beloved pet, because of the online challenge. Stray Pets in Need received more than $1,000 in donations on Monday alone.
At Baypath, Tomassini also said donations ran from small to "very generous" — and staff members were still processing hundreds of donations and making thank-you calls two days later. She admitted she wasn’t an expert but recalled that Giving Tuesday also had an “organic, grassroots” beginning.
“I think that this has similar power, and it actually makes it possible for everyone to give because everyone was encouraged to make a $5 gift, or something like that, and so that makes it accessible for everyone,” Tomassini said. “Few could resist being a part of it.”
Cheryl Mitcham, of the MetroWest Humane Society in Ashland, said the organization saw more than $2,000 in donations come in on Monday.
“We are very thankful to our community,” Mitcham said. “Usually, after the first of the year, we’ve just come off of a really large donation push for the holiday season, so this was a nice little uptick that we didn’t really plan for and expect. But it’s nice to have.”
Tomassini said it wasn’t just financial help that was rolling in this week but also families offering to foster animals. The humane society posted a thank you on Facebook, writing “If Betty only knew all of the good her memory is doing for animals in need. We loved her so much — it only seems right that her love for our work continues.”
“I think so many of us grew up with pets and have seen the power of an animal and how they can change a family and give comfort — and accept comfort — especially during these times where we might be a little more secluded.” Tomassini said. “We are amazed and we are grateful and we hope to be a resource for all of those in the community who need us.”
Lillian Eden can be reached at 617-459-6409 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LillianWEden.
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: West of Boston animal shelters benefit from #bettywhitechallenge