More than $50K donated to Pet Alliance during Betty White Challenge

SANFORD, Fla. — The staff at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando had one message as they looked at their computer screens Monday afternoon: Central Florida, thank you for being a friend.

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It was, of course, a message fit for the legend that helped blow up their inbox that day.

To mark what would’ve been the icon’s 100th birthday, people around the world donated to their local pet shelters in honor of the animal-loving actress.

What began as an internet challenge ended exactly the way you’d expect.

READ: ‘Thank you for being a friend’: #bettywhitechallenge encourages donating to local animal shelters

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“I thought, ‘Oh, you know, a few people donate here, there,’” Pet Alliance Director of Marketing Cathy Rodgers said. “I was not expecting donations every five and 10 minutes coming through our system, and that’s what we’ve been seeing.”

On a normal Monday, the shelter typically raises $500 to $1,000, Rodgers said, but by the end of the night, the Pet Alliance raised $50,500.

The money will be used to fund the organization’s day-to-day operations and prep for kitten season, giving executives some relief as they raise funds to replace their former Orlando headquarters that burned to the ground in September.

READ: More than 50,000 meals donated to Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando

“By March, we are doing a temporary shelter space on Central Boulevard – it’ll be a cat only shelter and we’ll have a veterinarian there,” Rodgers said. “Hopefully, by fall 2023, [we’ll have] a new shelter that everybody can come to.”

The organization has picked the builder and site for their new location and is now focused on the funding, with ‘Paws in the Park’ on February 12 expected to provide a needed lift.

Everything else, Rodgers said, is going well. Animals are being adopted as soon as they arrive at the Sanford facility. Only one animal, a five-year-old dog named Sheba, remains from the night of the fire. She is waiting for a home with no other pets and no children.

READ: Paws to revisit 2021′s top 9 animal stories

“It was very difficult for all the staff and volunteers and everybody in the community to go through [the fire],” Rodgers said. “We’re glad to be moving beyond it.”

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