By Elisa Black-Taylor
My friend, Robin Olson lives in Newtown, Connecticut. For those of you who don’t know, this is the small town that lost 20 precious first and second graders as well as six brave adults who tried to protect them against a gunman who came into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14. In fact, Robin lives not far from where the killer and his mother lived. Both are dead now, and the country is still trying to come to terms with the tragedy. A lot of lives were lost, and I consider everyone who lives in that area a shooting victim. I doubt a single family has gone untouched by this tragedy.
Robin runs a cat rescue called Kitten Associates. Shortly after the news broke about all of the traumatized children who survived the massacre, Robin decided to do something to help her community heal. She calls it “kitten therapy.”
“They are great listeners, little furry counselors who don’t take notes…”
Kittens For Kids
This is how Kittens for Kids was born. Robin (also with her partner Sam Moore), decided to open her home to those affected by the shooting. This includes parents as well as the area children. Robin will offer 30 minute kitten therapy one-on-one visits by appointment only through January 31, 2013 where they can visit the foster kittens in her care.
To book an appointment or for more information, please call 203-744-9CAT or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are also being accepted to help cover the part of healing therapy these children will take home with them in the form of stuffed animals.
Not only is Robin opening up her home, she started an Amazon wish list to purchase plush stuffed cats for the children to take home with them after their visit. The response has been overwhelming.
“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. 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.”
Each child that visits will take home one of the plush cat toys to remember their visit with the foster cats. Children who were affected more directly will get a K.T. Cat super-soft cuddly play and sleep mate designed to help children express their feelings. Children who aren’t old enough to enjoy some kitty play time will still get a free toy.
In The News
Robin’s idea and her commitment to her community drew attention from the NBC affiliate station in New York, who came to her house for an interview over the weekend. Here’s a link to a short video from that visit.
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.
Robin, it’s people like you who give us all hope for humanity. You are a role model for an area that has been left devastated, with no end in sight for your sorrow.
My Personal Experience
I can sympathize with Newtown, Connecticut because the town I lived in when my daughter was in her first year of elementary school was the victim of what’s believed to be the first school shooting in the United States. It took place in Greenwood, SC in September 1988.
The tragedy in Connecticut has stirred up emotions where I live now, as I’m only a twenty minute drive from where the shooting took place in Greenwood. It was terrifying. I still remember the news coming on the radio that afternoon announcing a shooter had gone into a local elementary school and students were dead and injured. Eleven people were shot that day. Two third grade girls died from gunshot wounds. Seven other students as well as two teachers were also shot.
Do any of you know how horrifying it is to know a shooting has taken place, your daughter is in an elementary school, but the local radio station newscaster refused to report what school the shooting occurred at?
Mothers everywhere with mentally disturbed teens are now banding together for the first time to discuss the mental health system. Studies have been done and it was found in all of the school shootings to date, the shooter told someone of his plans and nothing was done about it. It’s a shame this country has taken so long to bring this issue to the forefront of public issues. The one piece of advice I read (directed to mother’s who have a child they believe is a ticking time bomb) is to get a legal paper trail started. Parents can no longer sit back and do nothing and hope the problem goes away. The police nor the mental health affiliates can’t do their job unless the problem is reported and documented.
I feel for my former neighbor, who is reliving an old horror with this most recent shooting.You see, my neighbor in 1988 was the mother of the young man who entered that school in Greenwood, SC. To this date, no one knows why he did it. Only that he was mentally ill and once he turned 19 and no longer covered on his fathers insurance, he was released from a mental health facility. That’s what this country does to it’s mentally ill. His mother has been like an older sister to me since we lived as neighbors from 1987-1993. You couldn’t ask for a finer woman or mother. We helped each other out and took care of each others girls. I truly love their family and I hope with all of the reports coming to surface of mother’s in the same situation, she doesn’t feel so alone anymore.
I’ve learned from my research that most of these school shooters have no good male role model in the family. Many come from broken homes where one parent or the other was physically or mentally abusive. Usually you have a loving, tolerant mother and an abusive or absent father. Not to pick on the men reading this, that’s just what the research shows. Boys aren’t growing into good men of strong character when they have no one to base it on. The father may be a good man, he’s just not in his son’s life to lead his son. The shooter has likely injured a parent or sibling during an previous altercation. Many times this abuse goes unreported to authorities. The shooter in Connecticut killed his mother at their home, then later himself when he heard police approaching the school
I still remember one Christmas day when we were out of town and a water pipe froze and burst. This wonderful neighbor managed to get into my home and cut the circuit breaker so as not to burn out our hot water heater. One day their home had a kitchen fire, and Laura’s daddy went running with a fire extinguisher to put it out. We helped each other out a lot.
Link Between Animal Abuse and Killing
That tragedy in 1988, so like the one in Newtown, is the reason I got into reporting on the link between killers and animal abuse. Especially those killers who suffer from a mental illness. Friends have asked me on several occasions why I decided to familiarize myself with the actions a young serial killer may take regarding animals before the killer decides to switch to killing people. I’ve never told anyone my reason until this article A lot of people are just now learning about the pitfalls of the mental health situation in the United States. I knew the pitfalls shortly after the Greenwood elementary school shooting. No money and no health insurance=NO treatment! You can’t easily get what you don’t have the money to pay for. Especially with the mental health system overwhelmed as it is.
My neighbors son had a grandmother who allowed him to watch the movie Psycho over and over again as he was growing up. I’m mentioning this only as a warning that parents need to be more proactive in what their children watch on TV and at the movies. What parents see as harmless entertainment may be conditioning their child to think of the killer in the movie as a role model!
I also do a lot of side reporting on the subject of domestic violence. I write on how people can leave a bad relationship before it proves toxic to the children involved. Most animal abusers are somehow drawn into family difficulty where one adult needs to get away from the other and start thinking about how the relationship is affecting the child. Don’t dismiss this idea, because the popularity of movies like Halloween and TV series such as Dexter (about a serial killer) are leaving an imprint on children who are susceptible.
Pets, animal abuse and criminal domestic violence comprise about 90% of my writing (outside of PoC), and unfortunately new cases come my way to report on every time I turn on my computer.
Did the shooter in Connecticut kill or torture small animals? I haven’t heard, but I do know he suffered from a mental illness.
Nor do I know whether stricter gun ownership laws would solve the problem. I’ve read on pictures-of-cats.org where people living outside the U.S. can’t understand our fascination with guns. Personally, I feel many people in this country are afraid to have a gun, but more afraid not to have a means of protection. I can tell you the system to qualify to own a handgun is seriously flawed. Many mentally ill people in this country are legal gun owners. Yes, people will lie on a gun application and say they’re mentally balanced, and if the databank doesn’t find anything to say the opposite, that person can take home a gun the same day. That same gun may be used to teach the older children in the family to shoot. Then the day comes when that child steals that gun and ends the lives of as many innocent victims as possible. Sometimes one or both parents are the first killed. That’s what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. Mom was the first victim.
Let’s not forget the therapy dogs who do the same kind of work. There are golden retrievers there too providing therapy. Well done all.
I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent with this story. I only wanted to honor Robin and the work she is doing to help her community cope. She was SO excited the other night when she found out NBC was coming to interview her.
GREAT JOB ROBIN! Everyone who’s heard the story of your “cat therapy classes” is so proud to have you as a friend. You make the world a better place.