Thanks to her unforgettable star turn as a possessed child in the horror-film classic The Exorcist, Linda Blair will forever be linked with scary stories. Weaker souls might have buckled under the strain of the “demon girl” image, but Blair has turned her demonic image on its satanically spinning head.
How? By being an angel to “scary” dogs that are too often demonized by the popular media and the public: Pit Bulls.
Pit Bulls experience prejudice, just as she did. “That’s why I fight for the underdog,” says Blair.
Like so many dog lovers who’ve had one special encounter with a loyal, loving Pit, Blair’s world was changed one day when a sweet, stray brindle began following her.
“The media had conditioned me to be afraid that this dog would kill me, but in fact he was asking for my help,” she recalls.
The dog followed her home, then pitched camp in her heart. More than a pet, Sunny the Pit Bull was a teacher, and he opened Blair’s eyes to the plight of the many irrationally feared dogs just like him.
That experience, and what she saw while volunteering in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, motivated her to create the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, a nonprofit that operates a sanctuary for homeless dogs in the California desert.
To date, she has rescued and rehomed hundreds of dogs of all stripes, and has helped raise awareness of spay-neuter, animal abuse and neglect, and the plight of those woefully misunderstood breeds, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier -– collectively referred to as Pit Bulls. As a former child actor, Blair can appreciate the Pit Bull’s legacy as a dependable, stalwart friend to kids, and points to Petey of Our Gang as a fine specimen. At the foundation, every month is Pit Bull Awareness Month!
Blair is constantly on the go on behalf of rescued dogs: hosting adoption events, exercising the rescues, decorating the digs (“designing on a dime for dogs,” she calls it), making appearances, and speaking. Just this morning she was the subject of a profile by Jill Rappaport on NBC’s Today. Amazingly youthful-looking at 53, Blair credits her good looks to her compassion for animals. And she embraces a strictly vegan diet — she even penned a lifestyle book titled Going Vegan.
The plight of homeless animals keeps her busy figuring out creative ways to help. “Animal shelters used to be places where families went to adopt a pet,” Blair says. “Now, they’ve become places where people abandon their animal companions because they can’t afford pet food or vet care.” With the belief that this appalling trend needs to change, Blair is doing her part to raise awareness that each of us can make a difference — it’s as easy as adopting from the nearest animal shelter. To those who ask what they can do to help, she says, “If you adopt from your local shelter, you’re helping.”
LBWF runs entirely on donations — as the Today show put it, Blair is “living from hand to dog’s mouth” — and in these hard economic times, running a sanctuary can be tough; recently, she faced down foreclosure. So Blair is resourceful in doing everything she can to raise funds for her foundation’s rescued dogs, and for other dogs in need locally and nationally.
She’s teamed up with Haunts Against Hunger, a nationwide food-drive movement that harnesses Halloween excitement to “scare away hunger.” Says Haunts Against Hunger’s Thom Kramer, “Linda has long been recognized as a talented actress, humanitarian, and animal lover. Linda made the suggestion that not only should we collect human food, but also collect food for animals in need at local pet shelters. Starting this year, Haunts Against Hunger drives will also collect food for pets in need in the spirit of the Worldheart Foundation. Linda is also helping us lead the charge to bring the food drive to a national level. Linda is an inspiration to us all.”
To help support Blair’s foundation for rescued dogs, she also collaborated with Reader’s Digest to promote the Be Afraid of the Dark movie collection, a perfect kit for wicked Halloween parties. And on Oct. 30, she’ll be a guest of honor at a fundraiser for New Jersey’s Vet-I-Care, which offers grants to people who can’t afford medical care for their pets’ emergency needs.
“I want to make it go national!” she says with enthusiasm.
And knowing Linda Blair, there’s no doubt it will.
For more information, visit the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation web site and Facebook page. Follow the foundation on Twitter at @LindaBlairWHF.