She built a jump in the backyard to train the family dog, she was on a mission to rescue squirrels and she even ordered business cards that included her title, “caretaker.”
She was determined to one day care for animals.
But on Dec. 14, 2012, 6-year-old Catherine lost her life, along with 19 other children and six adults, when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Now, Catherine’s parents are working hard to fulfill her dream of caring for animals. They’re building an animal sanctuary where the public can spend time with rescued wildlife.
Jenny Hubbard, Catherine’s mom, describes Catherine’s love for animals as all-encompassing.
“The minute that she could really understand what she liked or something that she was drawn to, it was animals,” she says.
After Dec. 14, Jenny found the animal shelter business cards that Catherine made, and decided to turn Catherine’s dream into a reality.
The Hubbard family asked for donations to be sent to The Animal Center — a volunteer- based nonprofit that rescues animals through a foster system — in lieu of flowers.
Originally, Jenny and her husband, Matt, thought the donations were being sent to a physical adoption center. But when they attempted to visit the organization that was accepting donations in Catherine’s honor, they couldn’t find it.
“We didn’t quite know what we had done. We couldn’t find the address,” Jenny says.
After realizing the organization is not location-based, the Hubbards met with the three women that run The Animal Center and learned that the nonprofit collected $175,000 on behalf of Catherine in a week-and-a-half.
Jenny says she and Matt were shocked — and stumped over what to do with the money raised.
Jenny Hubbard is honoring her daughter’s life with an animal sanctuary in Newtown.
Those in charge at The Animal Center told the Hubbards that their dream has always been to build an animal sanctuary.
“We had no idea what a sanctuary was. We had a dog. We had a daughter that loved animals and that was about the extent of knowing,” Jenny says. “They explained it’s a place where all creatures, great and small, are welcome. It’s a safe haven, it’s quiet and serene. I looked at Matt and I said, ‘It’s Catherine.'”
Jenny says that for her and her family, building the sanctuary is a way for them to remember their daughter. For the town, it’s a calming place where people can go to heal.
The Hubbards haven’t secured a location for the planned 30-40 acre animal sanctuary, but they do know it will be in Newtown.
Jenny says there will be three components to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary:
An adoption area with a feline and canine community;
A farm animal refuge, which will include cows, sheep and ducks;
And a wildlife rescue and release center.
The Hubbards plan to offer state-of-the-art care for the animals at the center.
“We want to provide them with a place where they can be sustained for a long time. The worst thing we can do is bring in these animals and not be able to take care of them,” says Jenny, who adds that they will keep the sanctuary minimal at first and then grow, based on the community’s needs and the resources available.
Jenny hopes to have land and begin building the sanctuary by the end of the year. The goal is celebrate Catherine’s birthday at the new animal sanctuary on June 8, 2014, and to open the doors to the public in three-to-five years.
“Catherine didn’t know politics, she didn’t know left and right, she didn’t know D.C. She knew animals. For us, as her parents, we have to honor her.”
To contribute to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, visit The Animal Center’s website.
WTOP’s Rachel Nania contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.