If it was a secret that Betty White loved animals, it would be the most poorly kept one in human history. The vibrant, witty, brilliant actress spent her life advocating for people and animals, and as we celebrate her 100th birthday without her today, a challenge is circulating. The Betty White Challenge aims to encourage people to donate to animal shelters or consider adopting instead of shopping – making White’s legacy one of saving the animals, even after she’s gone. It’s the perfect tribute to the late legend.
Betty White Challenge
17 days. Betty White died 17 days short of her 100th birthday, a milestone the world was increasingly confident she would hit as 2021 wore on and she remained hale and sharp as ever. Of course, we now know that it was not to be – as 2021 closed, it took one last devastating swing and White died on the last day of the year.
Today would have been her 100th birthday, and it’s extra bittersweet to mark the day knowing how close she made it. But it doesn’t matter – White’s legacy is so huge that it goes beyond any age, any number of years lived, any one person could possibly contain. As the world celebrates her 100th birthday, a challenge is circulating on social media known as, “The Betty White Challenge.”
This challenge implores people to make donations to animal shelters and rescue organizations on White’s behalf, and some businesses are taking the challenge upon themselves as well. The challenge only requires people to donate $5 to participate – a small enough sum to make it accessible to many. And businesses are often promising to match the donations up to a certain amount. It’s a beautiful tribute to a woman who would have loved to see what her legacy is bringing to shape. Seeing the internet flooded with pics of White posing with animals throughout her life is just the balm we needed to get through this difficult milestone without her.
Reaction to Losing Betty
Whether you’re a lifelong fan or just discovered the beauty of Betty in the past few years, White’s loss was a heavy hit. Fans across the internet shared tributes to the legend, offering stories of how she touched their lives, made them laugh, made them think, or inspired them to be better. The Golden Girls star was known for her self-effacing humor, sharp wit that often involved inappropriate jokes, and ability to brighten a room just by smiling. She was a humanist and a humanitarian, an animal lover and an all-around kind person. Here are some of the most touching tributes from friends and colleagues:
- Henry Winkler: The former Happy Days star was a contemporary of White and felt rocked by her loss: “Betty White : I is very hard to absorb you are not here anymore.. But the memories of your deLIGHT are ..Thank you for yur humor, your warmth and your activism … Rest now and say Hi to Bill.”
- Ryan Reynolds and White had an unconventional and highly publicized friendship that delighted the world. “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.”
- Valerie Bertinelli: Bertinelli remarked poignantly, “Rest in peace, sweet Betty. My God, how bright heaven must be right now.”
- Nancy Meyers: “Too much sadness! I posted once how she changed my life. She was the first person who made me believe I could be a writer. What an enormous thing to do for another person. I bet there’s hundreds of us who she helped over the years.”
- Seth Meyers: “RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.”
- Dionne Warwick: “Another brilliant talent has made her transition. I had the pleasure of getting to know Betty White and shared a few giggles with her. May she rest in well-earned peace.”
- Dan Rather: “A spirit of goodness and hope. Betty White was much beloved because of who she was, and how she embraced a life well lived. Her smile. Her sense of humor. Her basic decency. Our world would be better if more followed her example. It is diminished with her passing.”
- LeVar Burton: The Reading Rainbow and Star Trek star summed up what everyone is thinking, “Y’all, with the passing of #BettyWhite we have lost one of the best humans ever!”
A Life for the Story Books
The Challenge isn’t the only Betty White themed activity to kick off today. A tribute to her life that White participated in the filming of was slated to run on her 100th birthday – January 17 – and the decision was made to run it anyway. “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration” runs today, but without the star around to bask in the love and celebration.
To mark the day, here’s a look back at some highlights from White’s life and how she became the beloved legend she was at the time of her death – and will forever be.
- White was born in Oak Park, Illinois January 17, 1922.
- White’s family moved to California when she was very little, so she grew up in the glow of the West Coast sun.
- World War II: White joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services, which provided support and aid to troops during the war.
- During her service, White met and married Dick Barker – but their marriage lasted less than a year. She had a similarly whirlwind marriage with talent agent Lane Allen in the late ’40’s.
- White was beginning her activism in the area of animal rights and became an outspoken supporter of rescues.
- White began working roles in television and radio, and her first big break came as host of “Hollywood on Television.”
- In 1951, White received her first Emmy nomination.
- White starred in a short-lived sitcom in the mid ’50’s that flexed her muscles as a comedian.
- White’s next big gig was as host of The Betty White Show. White famously put her career and show on the line refusing to fire Black tap dancer and singer Arthur Duncan despite immense racist pressure from executives. White was quoted as having said, “live with it,” when pushed on letting Duncan go.
- In the ’60’s, White’s career was hitting its stride. She met and married Allen Ludden and she turned down the chance to host the Today Show. White and Ludden had a true love for the ages. Although they never have children, their marriage was outwardly perfect until his death from cancer in the early ’80’s.
- In the ’70’s, White played a recurring role on the immensely popular Mary Tyler Moore Show as airheaded and grating but lovable Sue Nivens.
- Throughout the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, White’s career continued to blossom as she made appearances on almost all of the most popular comedy shows of the time.
- But it was the mid ’80’s that saw White rocketed to household name with her role in Golden Girls as Rose Nylund. A beloved all-around show and cult classic, Golden Girls is still considered one of the best shows of all time.
- Throughout the ’90’s and early ’00’s, White continued to steadily hit every role out of the park. From late night shows to movies, everything she did turned to gold.
- In 2010, White hosted SNL and was considered one of the funniest in history. She also accepted the role as president emerita of the Morris Animal Foundation.
- For the next 11 years, White continued to be a staple in the halls of great comedy. When you thought of comedic legends, White sprang to mind.
Now that she’s no longer with us, it’s possible her memory could fade with time. But like White’s career over the years – we suspect it will grow and blossom as the years pass. Leaving behind a legacy of laughter, kindness and keen mind is all anyone could ask for – but White leaves us so much more. She leaves an example and a promise of who we can be if we want to be better.