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Fans Honor Greek-American Animal Lover in “Betty White Challenge”

Betty White challenge animals
Credit: Angela George/ Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

On January 17, what would have been her 100th birthday, tens of thousands of fans of beloved Greek-American actress and animal lover Betty White each donated $5 to their favorite animal-related charity as part of the “Betty White Challenge.”

Soon after the “Golden Girls” star passed away at the age of 99 on December 31, fans decided to celebrate her life and love of animals by organizing a mass donation campaign.

A representative for the online fundraising company GoFundMe told People Magazine that donations to animal-related charities have seen a sharp increase since White passed away.

Many other animal rescue and welfare organizations saw a huge spike in donations since White’s passing, particularly on January 17, what would have been her 100th birthday.

Animal shelters, charities saw huge spike in donations since “Betty White Challenge”

Melissa Bacelar, owner of the Wagmor pet shelter in Los Angeles, told The Wall Street Journal that the organization was flooded with nearly $17,000 on January 17 alone, a sum that could be used to spay and neuter around 60 dogs.

Mark Stubis, a spokesman for American Humane, where White was a board member and volunteer, stated to the Wall Street Journal that donations to the organization skyrocketed in the time since the star’s death, and that “There could be no more perfect time and way to honor the legacy of Betty White.”

Throughout her long and exciting life, White rescued many dogs and worked to improve the lives of animals through her collaboration with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, which began in 1966 and continued throughout her life.

White was the President Emerita of the Morris Animal Foundation, where she served as a trustee of the organization since 1971. She had been a member of the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974. Additionally, White served the association as a Zoo Commissioner for eight years.

White donated nearly $100,000 to the zoo in the month of April 2008 alone.

In 2006, White was honored as the “Ambassador to the Animals” in Los Angeles, and she received the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for her work with wildlife organizations and animal rescues in 2017. Even her fan club, called “Bets’ Pets” donated its dues to animal rescues.

But not all of White’s efforts were publicized. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she personally paid for an airplane to relocate penguins and otters from New Orleans to California to help the Audubon Nature Institute, who shared the story after her death as she didn’t want “fanfare.”

Betty White had Greek roots

Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922. She was the only child of Christine Cachikis, whose father was a Greek man named Nicholas Cachikis.

White’s father was Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive. Her paternal grandfather was Danish and her maternal grandfather was Greek, with her other roots being English and Welsh. Both of her grandmothers were Canadians.

Growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she blazed a trail for female television executives from the beginning, going on to enduring stardom on TV over the span of decades.

Her sweet, gentle personality had a bit of a naughty twist, and in the 1970s she created a completely unique persona in the form of Sue Ann Nivens, a sickly-sweet television cook whose sarcastic, withering comments “off-air” were a jolt to the senses at that time for television viewers.

She occupied a unique place in the American entertainment industry, having worked in it since the 1930’s, starting out singing on the radio in California.

In 1985, White scored her second signature role and the biggest hit of her career as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.

The series chronicled the lives of four widowed or divorced women in their “golden years” who shared a home in Miami. The Golden Girls, which also starred Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan, was immensely successful and ran from 1985 through 1992.

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