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Newtown animal sanctuary offers healing while veterinary center awaits construction

Jennifer Hubbard walks down a trail in the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Conn. The sanctuary is dedicated to the memory of her 6-year-old daughter who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The sanctuary will soon start moving forward with construction of a 10-million dollar facility for educational programming.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Jennifer Hubbard walks down a trail in the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Conn. The sanctuary is dedicated to the memory of her 6-year-old daughter who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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This time last year, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown announced plans to build a $10 million facility on land conveyed by the state in Catherine’s memory. The six-year-old died in the school shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012, and the sanctuary opened two years later to honor her love for animals.

But the nonprofit is still in the process of raising funds in order to begin construction. In the meantime, Catherine’s mother Jennifer Hubbard says the land — all 34 acres of it — is “just so therapeutic ... the beauty and the serenity.”

Walking through a tiny stream made by recent rain, our boots crunching on leaves and sticks, we made it to a creek. I sit on a fallen tree beside the water, Hubbard right next to me.

“With all of the water that we walked through to get down here, I couldn't help but think of her when it would rain a ton and she’d put on her rainboots and just go plumping through the puddles,” she said. “Every single moment, every single little sliver of it has Catherine — like right down to when I hear kids laughing.”

The air is cold and fresh. In the summer and spring, children come here to care for pets and farm animals.

“I think in the truest sense of the word sanctuary, a place of healing, is what we are,” she said. “What we've discovered is that when we can show human beings that we can care for animals, that we can ensure that animals know that humans are kind, and that they know safety because of humans, that we create kinder humans.”

Right now, the animals are housed in tents. Hubbard says once the rest of the funding is received construction can begin.

Facility plans in the works for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Conn.
CVH Foundation
Facility plans in the works for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Conn.

The future buildings will be home to a veterinary center and animal rehab clinic.

Hubbard said the kindness of volunteers who cleared the land of invasive plants, built a stone wall, and gave their time to create this space has also helped her son, Catherine’s brother, to heal.

“The sanctuary and everything that it stands for has shown him the goodness in humanity,” she said. “For me to know that he has seen that human beings are truly kind and not be scarred by one moment of violence … it leaves me hopeful.”

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.