The television icon Betty White was known as an animal supporter and protector, and that love stretched to rescue donkeys in West Texas. After his death, the rescuer wanted to honor his memory by naming their newest sisters and kindergarten a pictogram.
White, who died peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 31, 2021, has been a donor to a donkey rescue organization in the Pacific since 2006. The largest donkey sanctuary in the country, with more than 60 acres, is located in San Angelo, Texas.
Mark Meyers, executive director of the rescue, said when White started the charity, his checks were under the name “Betty White-Ludden” and came from his home.
“A lot of people said it could be any Betty White, but the checks came from her house in her name and then started coming from her management company,” Meyers said. “It was Betty White’s real deal.”
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Meyers said he has donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years to save.
“He was a giant animal all over the world,” Meyers said. “We’ve been to Animal Planet a few times, so he probably heard about us.”
Although he was supportive for a long time, White and Meyers never had a chance to speak.
“Most donors don’t want to be bothered and don’t want to be named there, so they won’t be bothered by other charities,” Meyers said. “Philanthropy is very personal. They only support what they want, so we try not to bother them.”
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When the heavenly donkey stick was born on Christmas Day 2021, the state of Texas struggled until December 31 to find a name that would match the newest taiga.
Betty White-Ludden, in short Betty, is named in honor of the donor and the icon. Not only did he name the newborn White, but a rebuilt kindergarten was also dedicated to him.
“We’ve just finished the reconfiguration and made it so that coyotes and dogs can’t get into it: it’s completely safe,” Meyers said. “The donkeys out there are older, have special needs and, of course, mothers and babies.”
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The rescue has been underway internationally for 21 years and has 61 locations headquartered in San Angelo. Meyers and his nonprofit organization stubbornly give donkeys a happy life.
Just like Betty White, people can support donkey rescue as part of the Betty White Challenge, which is an online fundraiser. In a contest dedicated to White’s birthday on Jan. 17, people will donate to animal charities in his honor.
Meyers says the biggest way to help people is to give money, which can be found on the charity page of his website.
“Each of these donkeys expects to be fed every day,” Meyers said. “They expect vaccinations, deworming, hoof cutting and checking their teeth … but it all costs money.”
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Meyers says his organization uses about 12,000 pounds of hay and 800 pounds of dry grass every day.
“Everything I have requires a lot of money,” Meyers said. “Look, we’re catching wild burrows in the desert; I have employees living in the desert. I have workers’ compensation, I have commercial transportation insurance … it all comes together.”
For Meyers, who does not receive money from the government, donations are very important.
A statement on his website said: “As the executive director of the Donkey Rescue Organization in the Pacific Valley, we will never accept government funding.”
Rescuers are also working on the Donkey History Museum, which is scheduled to open in October 2023 in Mesquite, Nevada.
Meyers says another way to help is to be a protector of these animals who can’t speak for themselves.
“There are very few donkey defenders,” he said. “Be one for them.”
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