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Locals step up for Betty White Challenge as Vancouver animal organizations see dogpile of donations

Jan. 17 would have been Betty White's 100 birthday.
Animals lost a friend in Betty White late in 2021, but in honour of what would have been her 100th birthday, a viral campaign is raising money in her name.

Betty White might not have made it to her 100th birthday, but she'd likely be happy with this birthday gift.

Around the world people are donating to animal welfare organizations as part of the Betty White Challenge; the viral campaign is encouraging people to donate to organizations helping and caring for animals in honour of the late actress Betty White, who famously was an advocate for them.

Jan. 17 would have been her 100th birthday.

In Vancouver, that means a big bump to organizations who weren't planning for or expecting the donations. The BC SPCA, which is wholly funded through donations, started to see money in Betty White's name a few days early, with around $20,000 donated by the morning of her birthday. At lunchtime that had ballooned to over $166,000.

"This woman has left such a legacy," says Eileen Drever with the BC SPCA. "The number of animals she's helped, even in her passing, is incredible."

For them the money will be spread wherever there's need, as the BC SPCA shelters animals, runs education and rehabilitation programs, has an emergency medical procedure fund, and investigates animal cruelty province-wide. 

"You can get disillusioned at times, but when you see something like this happen it's incredible," says Drever, who's spent much of her 42-year career with the BC SPCA working on animal cruelty investigations.

Vancouver-specific organizations are also seeing a big boost in their donations.

"Last year on this date, we received $150 in donations over the whole day. Comparatively, this year, as of 9:50 a.m., we have received $590," writes the Vancouver Humane Society's Chantelle Archambault in an email to Vancouver Is Awesome. "Five of those individuals explicitly mentioned Betty White."

It's similar for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA), where by mid-morning donations were already well past the normal.

"I did some quick calculations and, so far, we've seen a more than 700% increase in the amount of people who have donated in the past two days compared to last year," writes VOKRA president Tasha Bukovnik. "Clearly Betty touched a lot of people's hearts with her animal advocacy and it's heartwarming to see her legacy continue."

Drever is grateful for the donations and glad to see so many animal welfare organizations succeeding in White's name.

"I'd love to find out how much money was raised in Betty's name up and down North America," she says.

She notes that while it's an unexpected helping hand, financially, she's hopeful that kind of giving might continue in the future.

"I really would like to see it to continue," Drever says. "It will allow Betty White's memory to live on and cont to help animals in North America. It's really heartwarming."

"It's a pity she wasn't around to see what she's done," she adds.