Happy Birthday Betty White: Brevard residents donate to local shelters, rescues to honor star

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In many ways, Monday was a typical day for Titusville's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But because of Betty White's love of animals, the late actress' birthday brought in thousands of dollars of donations in just one day.

Now, with $8,304 donated to the shelter in White's honor, the SPCA will be able to hold a vaccine clinic for local pets this year, said Susan Naylor, associate director of the shelter.

The donations were an incredible surprise, and a great way to "honor her legacy," Naylor said, adding that all the shelter workers are huge Betty White fans.

"I hope that it would just absolutely thrill (White), because her whole life was dedicated to animals," Naylor said.

Gracie is a playful mixed breed, approx. 9 months old. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.
Gracie is a playful mixed breed, approx. 9 months old. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.

Susan Finnegan, owner of Tiny Bug Dog Rescue, also saw an influx of donations on Monday. With the challenge raising $2,600 in donations for the rescue, which will go toward two dogs' surgeries, she said it was a great way to honor White.

"I think she would be elated," Finnegan said. "She did so much for animals, and not just domestic animals, but wildlife. She just had a soft spot for everything."

Following the actress' Dec. 31 death, The Betty White Challenge sprung up on social media. The challenge encouraged people to donate to local animal organizations on her 100th birthday to honor her lifelong passion for animals.

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Naylor said it's a constant goal and often a challenge to raise money for the SPCA, so getting the influx of donations was a blessing.

"A lot of people sought us out to do this, so that was very helpful and unexpectedly pleasant," Naylor said. "We're grateful that we were able to do this, and we're super excited to be able to get back into the community this year and do a lot more for people whose pets are already here."

The shelter, which houses between 200 to 400 animals depending on the time of year, will use the money to help offer vaccines to pets in the area as part of the shelter's goal to work with local pets and families this year, Naylor said

Ripley is available to adopt. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.
Ripley is available to adopt. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.

Finnegan said Tiny Bug Dog Rescue, which fosters dogs throughout Brevard, has a community that consistently helps cover the cost of food and vet bills. However, the influx of donations will help "put a dent" in the cost of two surgeries, which total about $6,000 together, she said.

Finnegan, who has been working with dogs for more than 30 years and has owned the rescue for 12 years, often spends her own money on the dogs. She has also helped rehabilitate squirrels and other animals in her backyard.

"I try to do what I can. I don't want any animal to go hungry," she said.

Central Brevard Humane Society in Cocoa raised about $10,000 between Sunday night and Wednesday, said Executive Director Theresa Clifton.

Monday was made even more special when they adopted out a cat named after White's character Rose Nylund on the TV show "Golden Girls," Clifton said.

"(White) was such a great influence to animal lovers and brought such memories and (helped) those animals," Clifton said. "Everybody loved Betty White, and it's just really awesome — what a great legacy for her to have such a great remembrance."

Furever Home Animal Rescue in Titusville also saw increased donations, according to its Facebook page, with about $3,000 being raised on Monday.

"We are so grateful to everyone who chose US, out of all of the shelters and rescues they could have sent their donations to," the shelter wrote on Facebook. "It’s humbling, and reminds us what an amazing community we have behind us."

The donations will go toward the shelter's "dwindling" emergency medical fund, which helps prepare animals for adoption.

Rockee, age 7, is serving as office manager and is descrbed as "a giant couch potato". He is awaiting a forever home. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.
Rockee, age 7, is serving as office manager and is descrbed as "a giant couch potato". He is awaiting a forever home. At the SPCA of Brevard Adoption Center in Titusville, they have received over $8,300 in donations from the Betty White Challenge.

At SPCA, Naylor said she's looking forward to setting up the vaccine clinic and using the money to help the community.

Clifton said the Central Brevard Humane Society in Cocoa plans to hold a special celebration next January on White's birthday.

"Every Jan. 17, we'll make a remembrance of it for her," she said. "I think for her, there would be no greater honor or reward than for what happened on her birthday."

Finch Walker is a Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Walker at 321-290-4744 or fwalker@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @_finchwalker

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: 'Betty White Challenge' brings donations to Brevard shelters, rescues

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