Local animal charities buoyed by Betty White challenge

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It was a dog (and cat and rabbit) day afternoon Monday, as those looking to honour Betty White’s memory made record-breaking donations in her name to animal welfare charities across the province.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/01/2022 (260 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was a dog (and cat and rabbit) day afternoon Monday, as those looking to honour Betty White’s memory made record-breaking donations in her name to animal welfare charities across the province.

The “Betty White challenge,” a social media campaign encouraging people to donate to rescue organizations in the TV star’s name on what would have been her 100th birthday, brought a windfall of donations to non-profits across the province.

White, recognizable to generations for her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, was a renowned animal charity supporter. She died Dec. 31.

(CHRIS PIZZELLO / ASSOCIATED PRESS) The “Betty White challenge” is a social media campaign encouraging people to donate to rescue organizations in the TV star’s name on what would have been her 100th birthday.

It was “absolutely incredible” to see donations pouring in for Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, volunteer Lindsay Gillanders said Tuesday.

The Winnipeg-based volunteer-run organization, which fosters, spays and neuters and adopts out dogs, brought in $18,000 linked to the challenge.

“We can see big donation pushes like that when it comes to specific dogs — if we’ve got a really injured animal or something, we’ll put a call out. And we’ve seen donations like that come in in a single day but not general donations… This was groundbreaking, for us to receive that kind of money,” Gillanders said.

Underdogs receives no government funding and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the organization, not just through fundraising but through the work it does spaying and neutering dogs in rural and remote communities in an attempt to mitigate overpopulation.

“We’ve made huge strides in some communities, but when you take two summers of not being able to access those places in the same way and having community members locked down and not being able to access us for care of their animals, the overpopulation problem has really ballooned quickly,” she said.

“There’s communities where it was almost zero, and now it’s out of control.”

“There’s communities where it was almost zero, and now it’s out of control.” – Lindsay Gillanders, volunteer

Gillanders said the volunteers at Underdogs were stunned by the sudden surge in donations.

“I think that surprised us all, the actual size of it. But when you really step back, and you really think about (Betty White) and you really think about the legacy that she left, I guess it does make sense,” she said. “It’s just all sort of overwhelming and new.”

The donations began piling up early Monday at the Winnipeg Humane Society: $700 in the morning, $10,000 in the afternoon. Chief executive officer Jessica Miller said when the counting’s done, it’s looking like the shelter will have raised between $30,000 and $40,000.

“That’s a substantial amount of money for us, especially since… a lot of our money comes from engaging with the public in doing events, which we can’t do right now,” she said. “We don’t even know what to think, we’re so excited.”

While similar donations have come together in a day during big events that take weeks of planning and include large corporate sponsorships, such average day success is “absolutely unheard of,” Miller said.

“What I feel that this additional money gives me a big sigh of relief… because a lot of our staff have been getting sick, and they have to go and isolate at home… We’re going to have some money, we can take in these animals. We can keep extending the olive branch of care through these times when our financial state is unknown.”

At the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, which collected $10,000 in donations, Carla Martinelli-Irvine said it was the biggest single day in the 30 years she’s spent as founder and executive director.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES At the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, which collected $10,000 in donations, Carla Martinelli-Irvine said it was the biggest single day in the 30 years she’s spent as founder and executive director.

“There have been many people that I’ve seen (donate) I don’t recognize the name and I know that they haven’t donated here before… and I really think what (the challenge) has done is it’s brought awareness to the plight of animals in shelters,” she said.

Martinelli-Irvine said she was especially moved by how White had inspired people from all walks of life to give.

“There have been many people that I’ve seen (donate) I don’t recognize the name and I know that they haven’t donated here before… and I really think what (the challenge) has done is it’s brought awareness to the plight of animals in shelters.” – Carla Martinelli-Irvine, Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter

“We’ve had people who donated $100 because she was going to be 100 years old (Jan. 17), and I’ve had people on the phone who have been in tears because she passed away, they were actually crying on the phone,” she said. “She definitely made a huge impact in many, many lives.”

One person inspired to give was kitten foster parent Jill Bristow. She’s fostered hundreds of animals since 2014, and owns animals adopted from the Humane Society.

“Whether you donate to the Humane Society, or whether you donate to any shelter in Winnipeg or outside of Winnipeg, it’s just a really neat way to raise money for shelters and awareness,” she said.

University of Winnipeg classics Prof. Melissa Funke said she was moved by “being a Betty White fan, like pretty much everyone else in the world” and the 10-year anniversary of adopting her rescue dog, Rasputin, to make a donation to the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“It’s something that’s worth doing at any time of year, and for every reason, too, there’s constant need in this case,” she said. “It’s always worth doing.”

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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