‘Remembering America’s Gun Victims’: Chase Kowalski (Sandy Hook, Connecticut)

The Kowalskis could seldom focus on the birthday of their son Chase Michael-Anthony because Halloween fell on that day too.

Chase was born on Oct. 31, 2005, and each birthday celebration of his had to have trick-or-treating as well.

“You were trying to squeeze in a little birthday cake and make it his own yet you had a bunch of kids and his sisters that were like let’s go trick-or-treating,” Rebecca Kowalski told NBC Connecticut, remembering her son’s birthday parties.

“I always dreamed that ‘like what a cool birthday to have when you’re older’,” she said, half-speaking to the memory of her son. Snapping back into reality, she told the network: “There’s a party everywhere. I really wish that he was able to do that.”

Seven-year-old Chase was at his Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012 when a gunman broke in and shot and killed him and 20 other children and six adults there.

“He lives on in the hearts of children,” said Rebecca, breaking down in tears while presenting a check to the Greater Waterbury YMCA for the school benefit run in his honor. “He’s a Halloween baby. He’s our little pumpkin.”

Rebecca said since Chase suffered a speech delay and struggled through preschool, the Kowalskis felt a donation to help a preschool program would be best. “I think he’d be really proud of that,” she said.

Jim O’Rourke, Greater Waterbury YMCA CEO, added:

“It’s great when we’re able to talk to a family and say, ‘you know there is a financial need there. We want your child to be able to be a part of our programs and we have these foundation dollars to be able to help you out to make sure your child has access to preschool,” explained

Over the last nine years, through the CMAK Foundation — named after Chase — the family has been able to donate $180,000 to the program in their son’s honor.

“You got a lot of kids that have received a piece of the legacy of Chase,” said Rebecca.

Kowalski said she always told Chase and his sisters Brittany and Erin to make great choices each morning they walked out the door. She added her family has made a great choice investing in other children.

“We don’t get to see Chase grow up but we do get to see other kids grow up and grow into beautiful amazing human beings,” she said. “Our little pumpkin left this world but his light shines on. The sorrow gets replaced a little bit each time with the joy and the specialness of these little kids knowing that they have a little piece of Chase and they take it with them.”

Rebecca Kowalski receives cards from the preschoolers at the Greater Waterbury YMCA.

Throughout the year, the CMAK Foundation raises money for the school readiness and the Race4Chase Kids’ Triathlon Program, a six week summer camp in three states including at the Waterbury YMCA.

“Some that didn’t know how to bike or swim when they started the program are completely a triathlon which many of us would struggle to do,” said Kevin Grimes, the foundation’s executive director.

* Adapted from Chase Kowalski’s tribute on NBC Connecticut.


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