The sanctuary will provide veterinary care, educate visitors and also function as a migration space for hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators.
Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6, was among the 20 children killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. Her mother is now fulfilling her dream of having an animal sanctuary. Exactly ten years after the school shooting, in December 2022, Jenny Hubbard broke ground for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit to foster the bond between humans and animals in honor of her daughter, an avid animal lover.
The sanctuary will provide veterinary care, educate visitors, and also function as a migration space for hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. Catherine loved animals since childhood and Hubbard told The Washington Post that by the time she was 5, she was sure that she wanted to be an animal sanctuary caretaker when she grew up. The groundbreaking is also a way for Hubbard to turn the grief into a joyful remembrance of her daughter. "I made a conscious choice since the tragedy to not focus on and continue to relive what happened in Sandy Hook," Hubbard said. "...It's a solemn day for sure. And it is a day that I will forever remember as losing Catherine, but it’s also a moment to look forward with hope that she didn't die for nothing."
One of Hubbard's favorite memories of her daughter is when a butterfly landed on Catherin as she sat still in the grass. Usually, she would try to catch everything from insects to birds and squirrels. However, this one time, the young girl was calm and peaceful. Hubbard said, "I've tried to pinpoint the day where I was like, 'Wow, Catherine really loves animals.' But I can't because animals were always just a part of her. It was what she was drawn to, as much as they were drawn to her compassion."
Catherine's desire to start an animal shelter was deep. She and her brother once ordered 250 business cards for "Catherine's Animal Shelter." Catherine's card announced her title as "Care Taker." First, Hubbard was "mortified" that they had ordered business cards for a business that didn't exist. She said, "So I said to both of them that the business cards couldn't leave the house. The next day I got an email from Catherine's kindergarten teacher telling me that her business cards were just precious, just precious." The baby pink cards are now at the sanctuary. "We love them because, in so many ways, it's Catherine's desire to be a caretaker, lived out day in and day out, that we're doing," the proud mom added.
Plans for the sanctuary started coming together after Hubbard made a typo in Catherine's obituary, asking well-wishers to donate to the Animal Center instead of the Animal Control Center. "A group of women who ran the nonprofit, Animal Center of Newtown, suddenly received a significant amount of funds in memory of Catherine," Hubbard said. "After that, they met with me and shared an idea of creating a place where children would see their own innate beauty in the eyes of the animals that they encountered. And as they shared what their vision was, I could see Catherine and her life and everything that she stood for."
Hubbard was able to start the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation in 2014. The state of Connecticut even awarded 34 acres of land to the foundation and it took another eight years for her to begin the construction of permanent facilities. In the meantime, the land was used to host a range of programs and events, including the annual "Butterfly Party" on June 8, Catherine's birthday.
Now, Hubbard plans to expand the foundation's impact further and provide a home for both two-legged and four-legged friends. "I know Catherine will be looking down on us, and she'll be just so completely and absolutely thrilled," she said. "Because we've chosen to see the best in humanity. And [the future] may not be how we wanted it to look or what we think it's supposed to be, but I can assure you that something good does come out of every tragedy."