A dog named Sarge is pictured outside of Midcoast Humane. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Midcoast animal welfare organizations saw a boost in donations this week as the Betty White Challenge swept across the nation.

The Betty White Challenge is a viral fundraising campaign honoring the legacy and birthday of actor Betty White, who died on Dec. 31, 2021, just 17 days shy her 100th birthday.

White was not only an iconic TV actress and comedian, but also a lifelong animal rights activist — serving on the board of multiple national animal welfare organizations.

At Midcoast Humane, an animal shelter with locations in Brunswick and Edgecomb, Marketing and Communications Manager Kate Griffith said that the organization has taken in $15,600 contributed by around four hundred donors so far.

“It’s a movement that is really widespread, it’s pretty remarkable,” said Griffith, noting that over the last week donations in memory of White came in through social media, the organization’s website, checks in the mail and people coming to the door. “This money will be used to support the animals in our care and build a brighter future for them, so it will go where it is most needed.”

After the holidays is typically a slow time of year for donations, Griffith said, so the money — which came from a mix of both frequent and new donors — will provide an extra boost for the nonprofit.

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In 2021, Midcoast Humane found permanent homes for 1,372 animals. The organization serves 39 municipalities in Maine and is currently caring for 141 dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Lisa Bouchard, the president of Passion for Pets Rescue, said that the small, Brunswick-based nonprofit raised about $1,500 through 50 donations during the Betty White Challenge.

Bonnie, pictured here, is one of the dogs looking for a home through Passion for Pets Rescue in Brunswick. Courtesy of Lisa Bouchard

“It was huge,” said Bouchard. “We can get probably 15 or 20 dogs spay-neutered at Androscoggin (Animal Hospital) at least for that.”

Passion for Pets Rescue does not operate a shelter but instead helps relocate dogs in need to temporary foster parents in the community while searching for a forever home. Most of the dogs are transported from southern states and, as of Thursday, the organization was placing about 35 dogs in foster care.

Among the donors was Bev Clark, a Portage resident and Betty White fan who gave $100 to Passion for Pets Rescue. Clark has adopted two Labrador-mix dogs through the organization, one in 2020 and the other in 2021.

“When you see that advertised that on her birthday everybody should donate, there was no question,” said Clark. “Then you just look at the two adorable dogs that I have either laying on the couch or laying on the floor — you don’t hesitate.”

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Two cats from A Paw in The Door Maine Cat Rescue in Bath. Courtesy of Michelle Cyr

Tricia Welsch, a Brunswick resident and Bowdoin College professor of Cinema Studies, was another donor. Welsch gave to Passion for Pets Rescue — where she adopted her dog in 2016 — and another animal rescue organization in D.C. for the Betty White Challenge.

“I’ve been a (Betty White) fan, but also an admirer of anyone who keeps her head up and her smile intact for a lot of years,” said Welsch. “I think she’s a woman who composed herself in the public with a lot of dignity and humor.”

In Bath, A Paw in The Door Maine Cat Rescue received around 50 unsolicited donations in memory of Betty White, according to the organization’s founder Patty Sample Colwell. A Paw in the Door is a cat rehabilitation center that currently cares for around six cats who experienced abuse or abandonment.

The money will be put into a special fund for expensive cat surgeries, Colwell said. In 2021, Paw in the Door found homes for about 75 cats.

“There isn’t another Betty White, but there are so many people out there that dedicate so much to help animals and she really represents the spirit of that,” said Colwell. “It is a real boost when you have a person like that out there speaking on behalf of animals and their care.”


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