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Celebrating the Golden Life of Betty White: A look back on her charity work and advocacy

On New Year's Eve, we sadly lost one of America's Sweethearts just weeks before what would have been her 100th birthday. Betty White was one of the greatest TV icons of our generation, having worked in the entertainment industry for almost 80 years as an actress, host, and comedian. Best known for her role as the naïve Rose Nylund in the Golden Girls, Betty was also the star of her own variety show and many TV and film projects, including The Proposal and The Mary Tyler-Moore Show.

Beyond her Hollywood reputation, Betty also leaves behind her charitable legacies, most notably her efforts to raise funds and awareness for animal welfare. To celebrate the life of America's Golden Girl, let’s look back at some of Betty White's most beloved causes and charities.

A lover of animals

Betty White's love for animals started in her youth, having grown up as a child surrounded by pets and owning at least 26 dogs throughout her lifetime. Betty was a member of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, the Morris Animal Foundation, and Actors and Others for Animals. In addition, Betty was an active and long-time supporter of The Marine Mammal Center, a Northern California-based non-profit organization working towards ocean conservation and research. Betty also funded research on animal care, including a 1990 study on pain management in animals which would help to change and improve veterinary care.

An outspoken ally for LGBT+ rights and HIV/AIDS awareness

Betty was an early supporter of same-sex marriage and donated to several LGBTQ+ charities, including GLAAD, the Trevor Project, and the Human Rights Campaign. However, for many Golden Girls fans, Betty and the show's creators will be best remembered for their 1990 episode, '72 Hours'. Amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s/90s, the episode challenged the stigma against the disease, which was a game-changer to many LGBTQ fans. Outside of her role as Rose, Betty also donated to several HIV/AIDS organizations, including Elton John's AIDS foundation.

An early advocate for racial justice and visibility

From 1952-54, Betty White hosted and produced her own daily talk show, The Betty White Show on NBC. Betty invited black tap dancer Arthur Duncan to be a regular cast member of her show, first for American television. The decision was heavily criticized by audiences at the time, particularly in the South, where the Jim Crow laws were in force. Many stations threatened to boycott the show, but Betty stood up to their threats and kept Duncan on, even going as far as saying, "I'm sorry. Live with it."

A legacy that still lives on

Although January 17th, 2022, would have marked Betty White's 100th birthday, the celebrations are still going ahead with a social media campaign encouraging fans and animal lovers to donate $5 to a local animal shelter in her honor.

Take the #BettyWhiteChallenge at any animal organization across the world, and if you would like to join in and donate to a local animal shelter in your home state, you can find one here.

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