NEWTOWN, Conn. — We are coming up on 10 years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting left more than 25 people dead, nearly all of them children.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu recently met a mother of one of the children who loved animals. She’s using that love to heal her family and the community.
Catherine Violet Hubbard was known for her bright red hair and her passion for animals.
“She loved animals,” her mother, Jenny Hubbard, told Hsu. “Whether it was a stuffed animal that she carried around for the day, or it was a creature that she found in the yard — a frog, or a worm, or a butterfly… Or a family pet. Her heart was to make sure that she loved them.”
So in her daughter’s honor, Jenny Hubbard started the Catherine Violent Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown.
The state of Connecticut donated 34 acres of land for the sanctuary. Right now, there is a pavilion surrounded by benches. But eventually, there will be space for educational workshops for children, a library and a veterinary center for rescue animals.
For years, the sanctuary has been holding free outdoor educational programs, animal rescue events and summer camps, reaching more than 150,000 people.
Jayden Mendoza, 12, loves it there.
“I’ve been going here since I was five,” he told Hsu.
He said he may become a scientist studying insects or animals after everything he’s learned at the sanctuary, and he’s very grateful to the little girl who inspired the beautiful place.
“When you see the Monarch butterflies, you think of Catherine?” Hsu asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“What goes through your mind?” she asked.
“I just think she’s watching over the whole sanctuary and protecting it,” he said.
Three hundred volunteers maintain the sanctuary that’s filled with community gardens, a barn for goat yoga, and acres of meadows and nature trails. Everything is open to the public from dawn to dusk.
To raise money for educational programs, a 5k “Race for Catherine” is held. It’s this Sunday at 9 a.m. in Newtown, but you can also take part virtually from anywhere in the world.
“Last year was our first Race for Catherine, and we welcomed over 225 runners. We had 25 states represented, including Hawaii,” said Jenny Hubbard.
Corporate grants and personal donations fund the sanctuary, which has been a place to rest and take a breath.
“How do you think this has helped in your healing and the community’s healing?” Hsu asked.
“From a community standpoint, I think that just it being a space of acceptance has been a huge benefit,” Hubbard replied. “For me personally, having a place where I know that Catherine’s legacy and her love lives.”
CLICK HERE to learn more about the sanctuary and the Race for Catherine this Sunday.