Sally, above, and the other pets awaiting adoption at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland will benefit from funds received from the Betty White Challenge. Contributed / Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland has received more than $25,000 in donations thanks to the late Betty White.

Donations were still coming in Tuesday as part of the Betty White Challenge, a nationwide initiative to honor the iconic TV star and animal rights activist who died Dec. 31. Jeanna Roth, director of the shelter in Westbrook, said the donations will help hundreds of animals.

“I think it’s a really special and wonderful way to honor her legacy,” Roth said. “She was a fierce spokesperson for animal rights, shelters, local organizations, so it’s beautiful to see so many people respond to that and to honor her in that way.”

The challenge was issued for Jan. 17, which would have been White’s 100th birthday, but 180 donors gave more than $10,000 in donations in her name before then, she said. Another $15,000 came in over the holiday weekend and on Tuesday, when she was still tabulating the total number of donors.

Roth said the money will go a long way in taking care of the roughly 200 animals now housed at the shelter, and it comes at a good time because the period after the December holidays is usually slow for receiving donations. And, since the pandemic started, the Animal Refuge League hasn’t been able to hold its usual large fundraisers.

This is a little bit of a slower time of year for us with the number of animals we are seeing in our doors,” Roth said. “We have a lot of special needs animals, diabetic cats especially. So contributions will help us support the animals in our care and the special needs many of them have.”


Vixen, now residing at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, is in need of a permanent home. Courtesy photo / Animal Refuge League

Portland resident Josh Murphy said his family donated $5,000 to match other donations because of the Animal Refuge League’s work and because of the Emmy Award-winning White, who was once dubbed the “First Lady of Game Shows” and played key roles in TV’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and”Golden Girls.”

They are such an important part of the community.  They do great work. They have so much programming and support in the community,” Murphy said. “And of course, we grew up with Betty White. She is an icon.”

Murphy said his daughter has attended day camp at the shelter, the family adopted a parakeet there and their dog participated in programs that were offered. 

“We are happy how well it turned out for them. Our donation helping that happen feels great,” he said.

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