Betty White, Betty White, amazing Betty White. At half her age, I wish I was even one quarter as cool.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

With her death, the internet, in one of those all-too-rare moments when it actually proves to be a worthwhile tool of goodness, quickly spawned the idea of The Betty White Challenge. Although I quite recently wrote about charitable giving, it’s Betty White, folks. So, we are going there again.

Betty White was everywhere, without ever seeming to self-promote. She lived to a ripe old age while eating the sort of foods and keeping the sort of hours any doctor would warn about.

Most astounding of all, in an industry known for its cutthroat competitiveness, she was universally regarded as kind. As others have said before me, it’s pretty astounding when you die at age 99 and people feel you were taken too soon.

In addition to the roles she played, White was known for her love and tireless work for animals. She served as a trustee, board president, donor, spokesperson and other roles “too numerous to mention” for the Morris Animal Foundation, through which she funded studies on animal pain management. Ask a veterinarian; they will tell you the debt the animal world owes her. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, White paid for the evacuation of the otters and penguins from the New Orleans Aquarium.

Her love was real and her actions were tangible.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the challenge made in White’s name: People are being urged to make a $5 donation to an animal rescue of their choice on what would have been her 100th birthday, Jan. 17. Feel free to donate more or more frequently, but what a great idea.

While none of the eight Maine-based dog rescues I searched are rated by Charity Navigator, the nonprofit rescues Passion for Pets, 3 Dogs Rescue and Rescue Charlie’s Friends seem to have lots of positive chatter locally. Nationally, Hope For Paws, a well-known rescue organization, comes in with a rating of 91%.

White was a huge fan of horses. Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center and New Vocations are two racehorse rescues that each get top-notch ratings. In our own backyard, the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals is doing truly noble work. They recently took in an entire herd of 20 severely neglected and malnourished horses and could certainly put your $5 to work.

White gave her love and her funding to wild animals, too, so if domesticity is not your thing, there are many other options. The Global Sanctuary for Elephants, for example, gets a perfect 100% rating.

There is always the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or one of the specific organizations White herself supported. The Morris Animal Foundation, for example, gets the Give with Confidence rating from Charity Navigator.

I sure do wish we had more time with White, more of her wry humor and candy-coated sarcasm. I will gladly send this birthday gift in her honor; 99 years truly was not enough.

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