By Kerrin Jeromin, volunteer writer

Thank you for being a friend. That’s precisely what the Dumb Friends League would like to say to the more than 1,000 generous donors who opened their hearts and their wallets for an unplanned, but overwhelmingly popular, fundraising campaign in honor of the late Betty White.

On January 17, the League saw an unexpected spike in “friends,” or rather donations, as the #BettyWhiteChallenge went viral on social media across the nation. On what would have been the beloved TV star’s 100th birthday, fans around the world were moved to donate to their local animal shelter in Betty’s honor. And League supporters were no exception to this generous movement.

“There was a much higher call volume on January 17 than other days. Some memorial gifts continued to trickle in throughout the week, but the majority were made on her birthday,” said Remy Kaskel, Annual Giving Officer at the League. The League received a grand total of 1,031 gifts from generous donors, totaling approximately $33,725. “Every single dollar goes towards benefiting the comfort and care of the animals in our shelters and within our community,” said Kaskel. “A donor’s gift helps provide life-saving vaccines, surgeries, enrichment, [and] other healthcare for our shelter pets, and [prepares] animals to transition into [loving new] homes.”

Kaskel added that the most unique aspect of this particular fundraising campaign was that the League didn’t need to coordinate anything to make it happen. The entire campaign was created by an idea to honor Betty that quickly gained national momentum through word of mouth and social media. Besides sending out one Facebook post, there was little to no additional outreach from the League to generate attention for the event.

That Facebook post included a photo of Betty during a 1994 visit to the League, when she toured the facility (now the Leslie A. Malone Center) and snagged a few puppy snuggles, too. Best known for her acting career and roles in “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” White was also a fierce animal advocate. She was once quoted as saying, “Animals are near and dear to my heart, and I’ve devoted my life to trying to improve their lives” (IMDb, Betty White Quotes, n.d.). 

Overall, the #BettyWhiteChallenge was an incredible success for shelters everywhere. Fox31 News in Denver reported over $123,000 in donations made to shelters across the Centennial State that day. Nationally, the Challenge generated a whopping $12.7 million — the result of nearly 400,000 donations nationwide — through the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram alone, according to an article in Variety magazine

White passed away on New Year’s Eve 2021, just days before her 100th birthday, but left behind a legacy of joy, generosity, and compassion for animals everywhere.