Registry Tampa Bay

The beloved actor didn’t quite reach 100, but her crusade for animals lives on.

Sadly, Betty White came up a few days short of her centennial birthday, but her legacy started showing tangible returns shortly after her death on Dec. 31. People all over the world have opened their wallets to give to one of Betty’s favorite causes — animal rights. 

#BettyWhiteChallenge, which encourages folks to donate $5 (or more, obviously) to an animal nonprofit, officially happened on Monday, Jan. 17, which would have been the universally beloved star’s 100th birthday. 

But the giving goes on. “Definitely, it’s not too late,” said Colleen Cherry, the volunteer program manager for SPCA Tampa Bay

The independent organization, which is based in Largo, has added a special page to its website, with a donation portal that makes contributing a breeze. Cherry expects the page to be on the site for the foreseeable future. “Who knows if we’ll ever take it down,” she mused. 

And the charity did not have to wait until January 17 to get the giving going. “When we [at the SPCA Tampa Bay] got back into the office after the Holidays, we noticed that a lot of the donations on our tribute page were in the name of Betty White,” Cherry recounted. “So we decided to make it a little easier. Our marketing department moved quickly to put together the web page.” 

The marketing team also set up a Facebook Live event on Monday, starring: Colleen Cherry. The versatile singer, songwriter and actor belted out “Thank You For Being a Friend,” the theme song to The Golden Girls, while wearing her very own Golden Girls T-shirt that she bought at a Cracker Barrel, then pitched the fundraising campaign. It’s adorable, and you can watch the four-minute video on Youtube

Betty White was a trailblazing animal activist who worked for decades to champion the cause. She’s seen in countless pictures nuzzling all types of critters. One of Betty’s pet projects was improving conditions and saving endangered species at the Los Angeles Zoo. She published a book on the subject, Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo. Betty also created and starred in the 1971 TV show The Pet Set, where she conducted celebrity interviews and interacted with their pets. (The show is now available on Apple TV.)

As to the origin of #BettyWhiteChallenge, CBS News has reported that the movement may have been sparked by a tweet from one Lisa Powell (@icedcofees). When Ryan Reynolds posted a tribute to his Proposal co-star on Twitter, Powell quote-tweeted him, adding, “Let’s all donate something to your local animal shelter … It’s the least we can do to still celebrate & honor Betty’s love of animals.” The idea caught fire and animal shelters began promoting it.

Colleen Cherry and her friend, Eleanor Rigby

Closer to home, the Betty White Wildlife Fund made a direct donation to SPCA Tampa Bay in 2007. “It wasn’t a huge gift but it has special resonance now,” Cherry said. The organization has a memorial garden outside its Largo shelter, where people can honor their late pets by purchasing a brick and placing it there. “We’re making a space for Betty White,” Cherry said.

On Monday, Cherry did not know how much money the SPCA of Tampa Bay had brought in from the Challenge, but expected that organization to tally it up at some point next week.

But, as stated above, the giving goes on. It’s not too late.

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