‘A place of healing’: Girl killed in Newtown inspires creation of animal sanctuary

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NEWTOWN, CONN. – One of the young students who died in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was 6-year-old Catherine Hubbard. Her aunt, Kelly, is from Rochester.

On Wednesday, she was in Newtown, helping to cut the ribbon on a major expansion of an animal sanctuary built in Catherine’s memory.

Catherine Violet Hubbard, with her bright red hair and big, booming smile, always loved animals.

“Her mom had a rule in the house that if she captured a creature at some point during the day that at sunset she had to release those creatures, whether it was a worm or a frog or anything in between, they had to go back to their home,” her aunt, Kelly McCormick-Sullivan, said.

As a way to channel their grief after Catherine and 19 of her first-grade classmates were killed at Sandy Hook, her family started a foundation to open an animal sanctuary in her memory.

“I think it’s been an important part of the healing process and important part of the journey, especially for Catherine’s mom and her brother,” McCormick-Sullivan said.

Over the past decade, the 32-acre sanctuary has grown and grown.

“There’s community gardens that have been producing food for the food insecure in the surrounding communities. The corrals have been built and are ready to welcome farm animals when we’re up and ready,” she said.

The sanctuary has offered educational programs and free community workshops, touching almost 200,000 individuals over the past several years.

McCormick-Sullivan sits on the board of the foundation and on Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of Catherine’s death, they broke ground on an expansion.

“Hopefully in the next year or so we will have a veterinary intake building and educational center, library, a café: all the things that will, again, continue to make this a place of healing,” she said.

“This entire project reflects that kindness that Catherine shared with the world and while she isn’t able to do that here on Earth, we’re continuing that through the programming, the physical space. The entire way that we’ve approached the last 10 years has tried to be a reflection of her true spirit and soul,” McCormick-Sullivan said.

A spirit, and loving little girl, full of compassion. To learn more about the sanctuary, or make a donation, visit here.