Aside from winning an incredible total of 41 accolades related to her acting, comedy and writing achievements, the legendary Betty White is also known for her heroic efforts on behalf of animals in need. And now, the Weeki Wachee Area Club is hosting a very special fund-raiser in White’s name and on behalf of a Hernando shelter that does its part to house, heal and comfort those precious creatures of our county.
A board president, member and trustee for the Morris Animal Foundation, along with serving as a volunteer, fund-raiser and advocate for numerous other animal welfare organizations, White proved herself a formidable friend of the furry and feathered; she continuously raised funds and awareness for animal welfare and pet health research. The LA chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers named Betty White an honorary zookeeper in 2013, and she won the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2009.
Although Betty White passed away in 2021, her legacy lives on through the Betty White Challenge, an online campaign conceived just after White’s death. The challenge encourages people to donate to animal shelters, rescues, and other animal welfare organizations on the star’s birthday, Jan. 17. In 2022 alone, this challenge raised more than $12 million for these valuable organizations.
Now, for the second year in a row, the Weeki Wachee Area Club has accepted the Betty White Challenge. From now through Jan. 17, on which date a special event day will be celebrated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., those willing to take the challenge can donate pet food, supplies, towels, blankets, or a tax-deductible donation, bringing all donations to Gators Dockside, 4329 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. All donations go to the Tru Loves Rescue animal shelter.
“We did this last year honoring Betty White with great success for two animal shelters,” said Maryann Johnson, president of the Weeki Wachee Area Club. “This year we are focusing on a disabled veteran-owned shelter that needs help. They recently got their 501(c)3 status and are doing many things for forgotten animals.”
The club’s inaugural Betty White Challenge event proved a resounding success. “It was Betty’s 100th birthday, and (Weeki Wachee Area Club) member Kelly Dobson thought, ‘Let’s keep the legacy going,’” said Johnson. “We raised three truckloads of food and supplies and donated them to two shelters, Kathi’s K9s and Ziggy’s Legacy Rescue. Kelly Dobson sat from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for two weeks outside Area Club collecting supplies.”
In planning the event, Johnson wished to pay tribute to a legendary celebrity who devoted much of her life and career to the care and protection of animals. “Betty had a love for animals, and we want to continue that tribute for her,” she said.
Furthermore, Johnson felt that Tru Loves Rescue, a Weeki Wachee area animal sanctuary owned by Navy veteran Susan Holmes, was the ideal beneficiary for this year’s Challenge.
“We chose this rescue because she is a disabled veteran who just set up a new 501(c)3 rescue, and we wanted to focus on helping her, as it takes a lot to get started, feed animals and care for them,” said Johnson. “We have watched Susan and her love for all her animals.”
In the eyes of Johnson and her membership in the Weeki Wachee Area Club, the support of a veteran-owned animal rescue coincides perfectly with the club’s mission and values. “We support vets, animals and the good of our community,” she said.
Tru Loves Rescue is a rescue, sanctuary and boarding facility whose motto is to rescue the mistreated, save the injured, love the abandoned and transform their lives. A lifelong animal lover, Susan Holmes founded the organization to save as many animals as possible. “It all started with Zazu, an abandoned dog that we rescued from euthanization,” she said. “We work with a small crew of volunteers; we get calls, e-mails and social media messages telling us about animals in need. And we are growing, building a network of animal rescue volunteers in this area and others.”
Holmes says that she is paying it back and forth by becoming an animal rescue worker. A survivor of past abuse and assault, she credits both her strong spiritual faith and the ‘creature comforts’ of animal ownership and interactions with carrying her through some callous times.
“Animals have brought me so much comfort,” she said. “My life now revolves around Jesus–and the animals.”
To learn more about Tru Loves Rescue, visit https://www.trulovesrescue.org/. For more about the Weeki Wachee Area Club’s Betty White Challenge, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/332453382094795.
“Hopefully, our Betty White Challenge makes a difference,” said Johnson, “even if it’s only one day a year in honor of Betty’s love for those who can’t always help themselves.”