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CHICAGO — As comedic television pioneer Betty White was remembered earlier this week on what would have been her 100th birthday, area animal shelters have seen an uptick in donations as local residents paid homage to the former TV star’s love of animals.
White, who was born in Oak Park, died last month at age 99 at her Los Angeles home. But as her hometown celebrated White’s life and career with a day-long celebration on Saturday, the Betty White Challenge was taken on nationally by local businesses, which remembered the former “Golden Girls” and “Mary Tyler Moore” star in their own way.
Local animal shelters were no different.
A spokeswoman for PAWS Chicago said that the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter received donations totaling $100,000 as part of the Betty White Challenge. The donation included a $25,000 gift from a donor in White’s memory, the spokeswoman said in an email to Patch on Wednesday.
In total, more than 3,000 people responded to the challenge that remembered White, whom, in addition to her television career, is being remembered for a lifelong lover of animals and pets.
“Being a no-kill shelter draws people to support PAWS Chicago, and we believe that's why so many animal lovers came to us in Betty White's memory,” Julia Poukatch, PAWS Chicago’s manager for media and community relations wrote in an email.
Over the past 25 years, PAWS Chicago has spayed or neutered nearly 300,000 pets to end pet overpopulation, which leads to animals being euthanized, Poukatch said. Efforts at the Chicago-based shelter have helped lead to a 91% reduction in the killing of homeless pets since the organization’s founding in 1997.
Every dollar donated in honor of White’s legacy will help PAWS Chicago save animals nobody else can, she said, adding that the organization recently opened an advanced Medical Center for homeless pets in Chicago’s Southwest Side.
The facility is the nation’s largest and most advanced medical hospital for homeless pets serving an annual population of 25,000 homeless and at-risk pets. Poukash said.
“We are blown away by the groundswell of support from so many animal lovers in Chicago and around the country who honored Betty White with a donation,” she said.
In Oak Park, The Animal Care League also received a number of donations as residents remembered the long-time actress.
WGN reported that the shelter that considers itself White’s hometown shelter raised close to $20,000 as part of the Betty White Challenge. The challenge encouraged residents to donate $5 to the animal shelter of their choice.
The Animal Care League also held an adoption event at Byline Bank at the Centennial Celebration and adopted out four puppies and two cats as well as set up a few appointments for other animals at the shelter, the shelter's executive director, Kira Robson, wrote in an email to Patch.
Robson said that money raised from the Betty White Challenge will work to provide food and medical care for animals in the Oak Park shelter, and will work to get them what they need to move on to finding forever homes. Additionally, donations will support ACL's Pets & People Support Program which provides pet food and supplies as well as other safety net services to help keep pets in their homes and out of the shelter.
Last year that program provided over 11,000 pounds of pet food and other important supplies last year to seniors or those affected by COVID, Robson said.
Robson told WGN she feels that White — whose family left Oak Park when White was only 2 — would have been proud of the efforts to help animals.
“She is, as everyone knows, a lifelong animal lover and advocate,” Robson said. “We feel very honored to be her hometown shelter. That’s why we’ve had so much fun (last) weekend.
She added: “I can’t image (donations made) wouldn’t be heartwarming and for to be looking down, thinking, ‘wow — how amazing.’”