Update: after counting the donations raised on Jan. 17 and ones from the days following, the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society told the Star that they brought in more than $10,000 from the challenge.
When staff members at the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society first began seeing the Betty White 100th Birthday Challenge on social media, it was an easy decision for them to participate.
The rules of the challenge were simple. In honor of what would be the late Betty White’s 100th birthday on Jan. 17, participants would each donate at least $5 to their local animal shelter in White’s name.
Shelter employees did the math, and they estimated they would be able to bring in around $1,000 from their usual donors, so they put together an online fundraising campaign and began circulating the challenge on their social media profiles.
By the morning of Jan. 18, they had exceeded that number more than five-fold.
“We don’t have the total yet, but I think we’ve gotten to $6,000 on the online one,” said Katie Graham, an employee at the shelter. “And we’ve had a lot of people bring in checks and cash donations and stuff.”
“It was way more than we thought would happen, but it’s been awesome.”
The Betty White Challenge first surfaced on social media in the days following the actress’s Dec. 31 death. As of Jan. 18, the hashtag #bettywhitechalleng had more then 180,000 uses on Facebook.
White famously loved animals and was a big advocate for adopting pets from animal shelters in her life.
The St. Joseph Bay Humane Society rehomes more than 500 animals every year, according to their website, and the donations they receive from the challenge and other fundraising efforts go towards providing the animals with necessities.
“It all goes straight to the animals,” Graham said. “You know, their food and vet bills and stuff like that.”
With colder weather moving in, the shelter hopes to be able spend some of the money preparing the shelter and animals for winter. On top of monetary donations, they ask that community members consider bringing in towels, blankets, sheets and cat or dog beds to help keep the animals warm.
Further, the shelter hopes to continue the momentum of the Betty White 100th Birthday Challenge by offering a “Fan Club” challenge where participants would give $5 monthly.
“Your online giving in honor of Betty White to SJBHS outpaced other area rescue groups by five fold. Thank you for letting Betty’s love of animals live on and ‘thank you for being a friend’ to SJBHS,” the shelter wrote on their Facebook page.
“If you are able to give $5 today, please consider joining the Betty White Fan Club with a donation of $5 or more each month. Our needs are constant.”