Two of the many kittens waiting to be adopted at the Bangor Humane Society. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

After beloved actress and animal welfare activist Betty White died on Dec. 31, less than three weeks shy of turning 100, fans almost immediately began planning a way to honor her on Jan. 17, her birthday: a nationwide fundraiser for animal rescue organizations dubbed the Betty White Challenge.

The challenge, which encourages people to donate at least $5 to an animal rescue organization of their choosing, launched Monday morning. In Maine, organizations across the state had already raised tens of thousands of dollars as of midafternoon Monday, mostly through donations made via Facebook, PayPal, GoFundMe and through their individual websites.

Of the more than 100 animal welfare nonprofits in Maine, some of the largest ones had raised thousands only halfway through the day. The Bangor Humane Society had raised more than $7,000. Midcoast Humane had raised more than $9,000, and the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland had raised more than $8,000. PAWS Animal Adoption Center in Camden had raised around $1,500, Kennebec Valley Humane Society had raised more than $2,000, and the Houlton Humane Society had raised nearly $2,000.

“We are thrilled to see the enthusiasm around this challenge,” said Kathryn Ravenscraft, director of development at the Bangor Humane Society. “It speaks to our collective adoration of Betty White and the one language I think we can all effectively understand, which is the language of loving animals.”

A man walks a dog past a new mural of the late actress Betty White by artist Corie Mattie, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Los Angeles. Mattie added a QR code to the mural so people walking by can donate to the local shelter Wagmor Pets Dog Rescue in honor of White, an animal welfare advocate. White died Dec. 31, 2021, at age 99. Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Though it’s too soon to measure a nationwide impact, it’s likely that many millions of dollars will have been raised for animal rescue organizations across the country.

Kate Griffith, marketing and communications manager for Midcoast Humane, said that a $5 donation can go a long way — especially when hundreds of them may come in all at once.

“There is a lot that we can do with $5, including purchasing food and pet supplies,” Griffith said. “When enough $5 donations come in, they can be combined to help us pay for things like surgeries, keeping the heat on and paying our staff.”

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.