Fans create ‘Betty White Challenge,’ pledging to donate to shelters on the late star’s 100th birthday

Fans continue to mourn the loss of beloved actress Betty White. The iconic star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls died at the age of 99.

While no one can argue that Betty had a good long life and lived it to the fullest, it stings that she died just weeks before hitting a major life milestone: her 100th birthday, which she was set to celebrate on January 17.

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 15: Betty White attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza on February 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

However, fans have taken up an inspiring new project to honor the late star on her big day — by supporting a cause very close to her heart.

While Betty White was best known as a TV star, she was almost equally known for her deep love for helping animals animals. For decades she supported and advocated for various animal organizations. She often said that she liked animals more than people.

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So after her passing, fans online began a movement to pay tribute to the late actress’ legacy: the #BettyWhiteChallenge, in which fans are encouraged to donate to their favorite animal shelter on January 17 in honor of Betty White’s birthday.

The movement went viral online: according to CBS News it possibly began with a Twitter user replying to a memorial tweet by the actor Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside White in The Proposal.

Word of the #BettyWhiteChallenge has been spreading widely on social media. Countless users on Twitter and Facebook have shared images promoting the plan.

The most common post encourages people to donate $5 to their favorite local animal shelter. Viral “challenges” like this have made a huge difference in the past, most famously the mega-viral fundraiser the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for ALS research.

It remains to be seen how much will be donated in honor of Betty White, but given the widespread support for the idea it wouldn’t be surprising to see many shelters get a big donation on January 17.

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Betty White (Photo by E. Charbonneau/WireImage for Ketchum Entertainment Marketing)

In fact, many shelters have already reported getting donations in Betty’s name in the days following her death. According to one tweet, the Nashville Humane Association reported that “several donations have already come in…and the message is simple. For Betty.”

And many shelters are in need of donations: sometimes shelters become overcrowded, and shelters struggle to buy enough food and supplies for all the animals. Even a small donation from enough people can make a big difference for rescue dogs and cats.

(Original Caption) Betty White, star of DuMont’s Life with Elizabeth show, has just about enough time to feed her huge St. Bernard, Stormy, before dashing off to the studio from home.

White worked tirelessly for decades to help animals. In 1971, White became a trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation, a veterinary charity foundation. She later served as Trustee Emeritus and Board President, and was a longtime donor and spokesperson.

After she died, the Foundation honored her decades of work.

“It is hard to imagine a world without Betty in it,” said Tiffany Grunert, President/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “She was a tremendous animal advocate who tirelessly supported the work of Morris Animal Foundation to improve the health of animals globally. All of us at the Foundation are mourning the loss of this amazing woman.”

“We will miss her wit, her intelligence and, most of all, her love of animals and commitment to advancing their health. She was a true inspiration to our staff, her fellow trustees and all of our supporters.”

The American Humane Society also released a statement thanking her for her decades of service.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 14: Betty White attends the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s (GLAZA) 44th annual ‘Beastly Ball’ at Los Angeles Zoo on June 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic)

“For nearly a century, Betty White has been a tireless and devoted animal welfare advocate and we are proud to have known her for 70 years — longer than any other supporter in our history,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO.

“Betty dedicated herself to protecting and improving the quality of life for animals worldwide. She has always been a one-of-a-kind phenomenon, and we are honored to have known and worked with her during so much of her truly remarkable life. On behalf of the millions of animals whose lives you have touched, thank you, Betty!”

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 20: Actress Betty White (holding a Sugar Glider) attends The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s (GLAZA) 45th Annual Beastly Ball at the Los Angeles Zoo on June 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

And after she passed away, one example of Betty White’s kindness went viral: in 2004, she personally paid to evacuate penguins and sea otters from a New Orleans aquarium after Hurricane Katrina… and did so completely anonymously.

“She did not ask for fanfare; she just wanted to help,” Audubon Institute wrote.

So it’s clear that supporting animal charities, even in a small way, would be a fitting tribute to the late star on her 100th birthday… it’s probably all the star would’ve wanted.

In fact, some of White’s previous birthdays also involved her love of animals. For her 99th birthday last year, White released her 1970s show The Pet Set, a talk show featuring celebrities and their pets.

Other than that, she just wanted to spend time with her friends… telling ET she was planning on “feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day.”

Rest in peace to the amazing animal hero Betty White! We love this idea — donating to animal shelters in Betty White’s name is exactly the kind of honor she would’ve loved.

Are you going to do the #BettyWhiteChallenge? Share this story to spread the word!

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