Sandy Hook parents donate thousands to help Waterbury children in honor of late son’s birthday

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Chase Kowalski would have turned 16 this Sunday.

Tragically, he was one of the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown back in 2012.

His parents have come to embrace the motto triumph, not tragedy.

They got a special gift from the children and staff at the Greater Waterbury YMCA on Thursday — a group of kids singing happy birthday to their late son and creating birthday cards in Chase’s honor.

“We sang happy birthday to Chase in Heaven,” said one little girl.

The gesture brought Chase’s mother to tears. But, Rebecca Kowalski and the rest of the family came with a gift of their own. As a tribute to their son’s energetic spirit and love for others, they formed an organization called The CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation. CMAK is short for Chase’s full name: Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski. That foundation has taken on the “triumph not tragedy” mantra.

The Kowalski’s have turned their pain into a big effort to help other children.

Each year, the foundation raises money through events called “The Race for Chase” (Chase loved to run). On Thursday, their foundation donated $20,000 to The YMCA’s School Readiness Program, which helps 200 families each year.

“It ensures that all of our children who wish to participate in preschool have an opportunity to, especially when there’s a financial hardship on the family,” said Jim O’Rourke, Greater Waterbury YMCA’s CEO.

Since 2013, the foundation has donated $180,000.

“It’s been a guiding light through Chase,” Kowalski said.

“To have Chase’s legacy live on like this is, I feel great about it,” said Stephen Kowalski, Chase’s dad.

In other words — triumph over tragedy.

To find out more about the CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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