‘We were just in tears’: Local SPCAs raise over $40,000 in honour of Betty White

A student pets an orange tabby cat on top of the river lookout on Carleton Street in downtown Fredericton, N.B. in September 2019. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Two local animal shelters received a welcome and unexpected gift at the start of the year.

When the beloved actress Betty White died on Dec. 31, an unknown user wrote a Facebook post calling for people to donate to their local animal shelter in honour of her 100th birthday on Jan. 17.

Karen McGeean, director of marketing and development at the Fredericton SPCA, said people around the world started donating to their respective shelters.

McGeean expected some donations, but she quickly became overwhelmed.

Donations came in overnight and for the rest of the week which led to the Fredericton SPCA raising over $20,000. McGeean said residual donations are still arriving, including one last week. People even started donating on Jan. 1 — the day after Betty White died.

“We were just in tears because it was so wonderful and we were in awe because of such support and love for Betty [White] and for the animals. We’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

The Fredericton SPCA plans to direct the money into a fund called “Tiny’s Medical Fund,” named after a 30-pound cat that came into the shelter who needed help losing weight. Once Tiny lost weight, the fund continued to help support animals who came into the shelter and needed treatment or procedures such as amputation or long periods of medication. The fund allows the SPCA to take care of these animals in hopes of giving them a forever home.

“The vet bills rack up pretty fast so this came at an amazing time,” said McGeean.

January and February are hard for fundraising in non-profits since it’s right after the holidays.

Beth Anne White, an animal care technician at the Oromocto SPCA, said her shelter also raised over $20,000.

“We’ve always had great support from the local community and this was, again, another demonstration of how fantastic our supporters are,” said White.

She said the $20,000 the Oromocto SPCA raised would also be going towards veterinary costs because every animal who comes into the shelter needs care to different degrees.

The original Facebook post asked for people to donate $5, but local businesses in Fredericton matched donations from their store to the Fredericton SPCA. Most of the donations were around $20, said McGeean.

“Animal welfare is a tough business to be in; you see a lot of negativity,” she said. “When you see some positivity, it renews your faith.”

McGeean was filled with a mix of emotions seeing the total of the donations. She said she’d like to do the fundraiser again but needs to figure out if that’s something shelters can do since they can’t use Betty White’s name to raise money.

White said the fundraiser was a great way to give back to local community shelters. While everyone knew Betty White, this was a way people could recognize her and the work she did at a local level.

“She’s not here and she’s still contributing to her love and her passion [for] animals,” said White. “It’s pretty fascinating to see everybody support that.”