I was as shocked and horrified as people all over the U.S. when I heard about the tragic events unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut, just a week ago. I have a special connection to Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School because Kitten Associates, the rescue from which I adopted my beloved Kissy, is located in the town. I couldn’t stand to watch the news; the Facebook posts my friends made as the day went on were more than heartbreaking enough.
When I woke up the next morning, I was surprised in a whole different way. Robin Olson and Sam Moore, who run Kitten Associates, had come up with an amazing idea: They would provide their traumatized hometown with a big dose of “kitten therapy” by opening their home-based rescue to children who needed a break from the pain — and also a reason to smile. Kitties for Kids was born.
They wanted their little visitors to have a reminder of the pleasant experience of playing with the kittens, so they started an Amazon wishlist to purchase plush cats for the children to take with them when they left. In just a couple of hours, every item on their wishlist had been purchased by people all over the country who love Kitten Associates and were hoping to find a meaningful way they could support the people of Newtown.
“We know the healing power that time spent petting a cat or watching kittens play with a toy can bring to a child, his or her parents, and even first responders and other adults who feel emotionally overwhelmed,” says Robin. “Because animals have no hidden agendas and kittens aren’t threatening, it’s a special kind of healing you just can’t experience any other way.”
She’s right. I visited Robin and Sam on Thanksgiving, and their foster kitties provided me with that special kind of healing I needed after Kissy’s sudden and unexpected death.
Here’s how the program works: Through January 31, children age four and older, accompanied by a responsible adult, can have half-hour one-on-one visits — by appointment — with the foster cats in Kitten Associates’ care. When they leave, each child will receive a plush cat toy. Kids who were especially affected will get a K.T. Cat, a super-soft, cuddly play and sleep mate designed to help children express their feelings. Younger children won’t be able to play with the cats, but they can get a free toy.
News about Kitties for Kids spread through the blogosphere and quickly caught the attention of the national news media. Even the NBC TV affiliate in New York interviewed her about the program. If you want to see some cute cats and hear Robin explain Kitties for Kids in her own words, check out the video here.
Kitten Associates has donated a number of the plush kitty toys to the Newtown Animal Care & Control shelter, so it can do its own kind of “kitten therapy” work with the cats in its care.
I’m incredibly proud of Robin and Sam — their grief is so profound that there’s no way I can even begin to imagine it, but so is their compassion. Thank you both for reaching out to your beautiful community to provide a special kind of support to those who need it the most.