I found the perfect Christmas gift for my parents

When your parents live thousands of miles away and the mail doesn’t arrive when you’d hoped, sometimes you just have to improvise.

What do you get parents when they are trying to downsize? That was the dilemma I faced this year. This year, I put a lot of thought into their gift. I searched online for unique gift ideas and all I kept coming up with was gift cards or some sort of basket or flowers – but those don’t last.

While watching the news one evening, I saw a report on Catherine Violet Hubbard, a 6-year-old who designed business cards with pink borders in zebra, leopard and floral prints that announced “Catherine's Animal Shelter” with Catherine as “Care Taker.”


Catherine loved all creatures, big and small. Her parents told of butterflies that would flutter up and then land on her. She would watch baby birds in a nest for hours; play with worms, and she’d whisper to insects, “Tell all your friends I'm kind.” It was her wanting all creatures to know she would not hurt them.

catherine violet hubbard

Jenny and her husband Matt Hubbard were left to fulfill their daughter's dream. Catherine was among those killed in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Together, the Hubbard family and The Animal Center of Sandy Hook are collaborating on plans for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary. It is hoped that within 5 years, the first schoolchildren will walk through its doors. “Whenever a kitten purrs from a loving touch, whenever a dog nuzzles into a child's hand, whenever a butterfly dances between flowers, Catherine's smile will be there.” When you look at the sketches, the pagoda shown as the entrance with the reddish colored roof represents Catherine’s gorgeous red hair. Jenny and Matt have worked with designers who have thought of every possible way to carry out the legacy of little Catherine.

HC Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.jpg

Throughout the report, I reflected back on the Sandy Hook tragedy and the days I spent talking to my mom on the phone. The hours spent crying so many tears with families we didn’t even know. I knew I had found the perfect gift. I made a donation to Catherine’s foundation in the name of my mom and Mel. Out of respect for Catherine and her parents, I emailed through the website to ask permission to print some of their content and a couple of Catherine’s pictures. I wanted to include details of Catherine and her dream, in a Christmas card. A short time later, I received the sweetest email from Jenny Hubbard giving me that permission. Following a few emails, I am confident in the gift I selected this year.

Since the details didn’t make the mail before Christmas, this is Plan B. It was important to me that you know what your gift is, even if you can’t have all the details yet.

Love and miss you both

Gayla and Gus

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