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‘Love Story’ Shared By Newtown Resident Leads To Hubbard Animal Sanctuary Grant



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December was a very good month for Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary (CVHAS), thanks to large financial infusions from a pair of sources.

Within a week, the coffers of the organization founded to honor the memory of its namesake were increased by $90,000. The first investment arrived on December 14 (see related sidebar), and the second arrived two days later.

On December 16, CVHAS Executive Director Jenny Hubbard, members of the CVHAS board, and Newtown residents Lyle and Judy Thomas, were welcomed to the Petco store in Brookfield for the unveiling of a $10,000 grant through the Petco Love Stories campaign.

Hubbard was joined by board members and employees Chris Barrett, Alice DiLuoffo, Laura King, and Harmony Verna for the special event, which was anchored to the program that shares stories from people who have adopted pets and want to share how their pets have changed their lives.

CVHAS was pulled into the Petco Love Stories mix after Newtown resident Judy Thomas shared the story of her son Lyle and their recent adoption of PeeWee through the CVHAS Senior Paw Project. Titled “Senior Dog Helps Boy With Autism Thrive,” Judy’s story shared how she and her son learned about a senior dog in need of foster care.

Lyle, according to his mother, was diagnosed at birth with autism, and has often struggled with finding a life purpose. Since Lyle met PeeWee, according to Judy’s story, the two have been inseparable.

“PeeWee gets Lyle up and out of the house all through the day with walks in nature. At night, they snuggle on the couch to relax by the television, and at bedtime, their light sounds of breathing and slumber fill the house with a peace we have never known before,” her story shared in part.

The Thomas’s story was one of 100 selected from across the country to provide a share of $1 million in grant awards this year.

Petco Event

The Thomases, and Hubbard and her board members, were all welcomed to Petco on December 16 by Wendy Fontaine, Kevin Irwin, and Chelsea Staley, from Petco Love; and Petco District Manager Chris Plank.

Skechers Field Marketer Jim Agnello was also present. Skechers is a philanthropic partner to the nonprofit Petco Love organization. To date Skechers has donated more than $7 million to Petco Love through sales of its BOBS from Skechers collection of footwear and other fundraising efforts, according to Agnello.

“We’ve also helped over 3.1 million animals find a home” in the United States and Canada, he noted. “We’re very excited to be here. The stories are very inspiring.”

Fontaine opened the Brookfield event by mentioning that the Love Stories program has received over 20,000 submissions to date. She and the others, she said, turning to Hubbard, “are so very excited to celebrate these hard-working organizations like yours.”

Turning toward Lyle and Judy Thomas, Fontaine continued, saying they were also happy to honor “the pet adopters, who have adopted pets and changed their lives.”

Lyle spoke next. He told those in attendance that he always loved animals, and wanted one in his life. That was how he first became involved with the Hubbard sanctuary, he said.

When he met PeeWee, he said, “she was all alone, scared, and she wanted a home. She was frightened and not used to anyone.”

The Thomases initially fostered PeeWee for two months.

“She started growing comfortable with me,” Lyle said. After PeeWee returned to her home for a few months, the Thomases were contacted again when circumstances changed again for the elderly dog.

“We were asked if we could adopt her,” Lyle said. He accepted immediately, he said. “She brings us so much.”

The “fun part,” Fontaine said, came next. With Plank and store employee Kendrick Baldwin holding an oversized check — which was covered with a sheet of paper to prevent anyone from initially seeing the amount of the grant — Lyle and Hubbard were invited to reveal the grant total. The sanctuary representatives knew they would be receiving a grant, but did not yet know its amount.

“We have people going around the country today, sharing Love Stories and receiving grants, but none of the recipients know the amounts in advance,” Fontaine explained. “Only the store team knows the amount, so the suspense is real.”

With that, Lyle and Hubbard pulled the top layer up, revealing a “check” for $10,000 payable to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.

Family, Officials Attended

Hubbard spoke about the sanctuary, saying it was started because her daughter “just loved animals and she promised to care for them. So at the sanctuary we honor the bonds that exist between humans and animals.”

The Thomases were also thanked for their role in the grant. Kevin Irwin handed Lyle a shopping bag “filled with goodies,” he said. Irwin also announced Lyle was being given a $100 shopping spree. Jim Agnello then presented Judy Thomas with a pair of BOBS from Skechers shoes.

Also honored on December 16 was Petco Brookfield employee Kendrick Baldwin. He was gifted with Petco Love products to thank him for being the local store employee who raised the highest amount of donations for the nonprofit.

Fontaine explained that Petco Love is only able to raise so much money every year because their partners “ask every guest, every time, at the register, for a donation.”

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal was also in Brookfield on December 16. He thanked Petco for the support for CHVAS, “a wonderful member of our community. They bring joy to many, and I thank Jenny for all of her efforts day in and day out. I know this grant will go to help make the sanctuary a reality.”

State Senator Tony Hwang commended Judy Thomas for sharing “your wonderful story.

“It’s so important,” he added. “Every single dollar that Petco contributes to this will help make a difference in people’s lives. I can’t say enough, what a great beneficiary, the Hubbard Sanctuary is.”

Located at 3 Old Farm Road, The Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary was created in 2013 in honor of one of the 6-year-old children killed on 12/14. Its mission is to continue the “crusade of passion,” according to its website, of “a kind and compassionate animal lover who lost her life at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th 2021.”

Site work continues on the 34-acre sanctuary property. Meanwhile, CVHAS programs and educational workshops are offered on- and off-site; the CVHAS Senior Paw Project has helped senior citizens support or find foster care for their animals, and fundraising keeps the sanctuary moving toward its goal of a permanent location that will reflect Catherine’s kindness and compassion.

To learn more visit CVHfoundation.org.


Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Newtown resident Lyle Thomas and Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Jenny Hubbard unveil an oversize check from Petco Love that announces a grant of $10,000 for the local animal sanctuary. The December 16 announcement was part of a national series of grant announcements through the nonprofit organization of Petco Animal Supplies. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Judy and Lyle Thomas kneel with PeeWee, who was adopted by the mother and son through the Catherine Violet Hubbard Senior Paw Project.
Petco Love Foundation and local officials joined Lyle and Judy Thomas for the announcement of a $10,000 grant to The Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Brookfield on December 16. From left is Lyle and Judy Thomas, with PeeWee; Wendy Fontaine, from Petco Love; First Selectman Dan Rosenthal; Petco District Manager Chris Plank; CVHAS Executive Director Jenny Hubbard; State Senator Tony Hwang; and Chelsea Staley and Kevin Irwin, from Petco Love Foundation.
Lyle Thomas was presented with a shopping bag already filled with Petco items, and given a $100 shopping spree by Petco Love Foundation representative Kevin Irwin.
Judy Thomas received a pair of BOBS from Skechers shoes during the December 16 event.
PeeWee was in the holiday spirit, proudly wearing a poinsetta decoration created by members of the Newtown Senior Center Crafters.
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