NEWTOWN, Conn. — Six-year-old Catherine Violet Hubbard once caught a butterfly on her hand.
As she set it free, she whispered: “Tell your friends that I am kind.”
That one sentence is the inspiration behind the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, a tribute to the little girl who was one of 20 children and six adults who perished in the Sandy Hook School massacre on Dec. 14, 2012.
It has been five years since that tragic day and family, friends and supporters of the sanctuary gathered this month to celebrate Catherine’s memory and raise more than $700,000 for the new sanctuary.
“If a human being can understand and appreciate that the animals in their care are important and need us, we can be that kind and gentle spirit like Catherine was,” her mother, Jenny Hubbard, told PEOPLE .
More than 360 guests attended the inaugural gala, “Creating Kindness Together,” held at the picturesque RCG Farm in Newtown.
Proceeds from the stunning, black-tie event will be used to fund the build-out of the new animal sanctuary on the 34-acre site gifted to the family from the state of Connecticut.
Construction is slated to begin in March 2018. The expansive animal sanctuary will be a destination for care and kindness for animals of all types, and a place of healing where animals will know they are safe and people are kind, just as Catherine would have wanted.
Greenwich resident Gretchen Carlson, the master of ceremonies, shared the progress of the sanctuary, while giving a glimpse to what the future holds for the project.
Musical guests included The Greenwich Academy Madrigal Singers, pianist Kaia Close, Broadway Youth Ensemble, Alex Boye, Tim Janis and many more.
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