Solana Beach students get creative to make donation in Newtown victim’s honor

By Claire Harlin

Having little to start with didn’t stand in the way of two Solana Beach elementary school students’ desire to give — and a recent, unexpected and unforgettable pat on the back has only fueled their budding generosity.

When Andreas Josaitis, 10, and his brother Marcus, 8, heard about the Newtown school shooting in December, they had fear, anger and, most of all, questions. And their mother, Cecile Josaitis, struggled as much with those hard answers as her boys struggled with understanding them.

“They wanted to know why,” said Cecile, a portrait painter who runs a daycare business out of her home. “We talked about the shooter. We talked about the helpers. We talked about the teachers. Most of all, they wanted to know about the children. They wanted to see them and learn who they were.”

Cecile spent time with her sons reading stories online about the 20 young lives lost, and she said Marcus, a third-grader at Solana Vista Elementary, became particularly attached to the story of Catherine Hubbard, a 6-year-old, red-headed animal lover who rode a pony named Peanut and aspired to one day open her own animal shelter. Upon seeing that Hubbard’s parents were asking for donations to be given to the Newtown Animal Center in her honor, the boys were determined to help.

Helping out is no new concept for the Josaitis brothers. For years, the boys have each put $1 from their $5 weekly allowance into what they call a “give envelope” and they pool together about $100 each holiday season and go on a toy shopping spree — only they shop for every kid but themselves, gathering items for both boys and girls of every age and then dropping them off at a Toys for Tots donation site.

In 2012, however, their give envelope was empty, as Cecile’s business had been hit by the recession and was slowly declining, making her unable to give her sons an allowance all year. But that was of no importance to Andreas and Marcus, who quickly came up with another idea that was particularly fitting for the season.

The boys gathered card stock, paper, glue, scissors and glitter they had lying around the house, and spent an entire weekend making about 100 sparkly, feel-good Christmas cards, which they sold door-to-door to raise money for the shelter.

“They were relentless,” said Cecile. “They went around our town, to their friends’ parents, to my neighbors, my friends, carrying around their little binder of cards with Catherine’s picture on the cover.”

Andreas, a fifth-grader at Skyline Elementary, came up with the pricing: $1 for one, $4 for five or $7 for 10.

“Each one was different,” he said, adding that he and Marcus had made cards before and are “pretty good at it.”

Marcus added, “I’m really good at abstract.”

The boys raised a total of $77 and sent every penny to the Newtown Animal Shelter, along with a joint letter. The brothers alternated sentences, Andreas writing in black and Marcus in blue.

“We know that Catherine Hubbard wanted to open her own animal shelter, but now she can’t, so our parents wanted us to donate to you,” Andreas wrote. “Maybe you can name your center as the Catherine Hubbard Animal Center. It would make her parents less sad.”

Marcus added, “We raised $77 and we hope you can do something really good for the animals with it.”

Six weeks passed, and on Feb. 18 the boys received a phone call from Aaron Carlson, the founder of and father of one of Hubbard’s classmates. Little did Marcus and Andreas know that their mother, Cecile, had nominated them for the Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness award, which was set up by the parents of another Newtown victim.

I found out about the award from a friend who lives in Connecticut,” said Cecile. “Even if they didn’t win, I wanted to share their good deed … I figured that maybe they would get a nice email response and benefit from the unexpected positive reinforcement.”

Carlson actually called to invite the boys to Newtown to be honored in an awards ceremony on Feb. 22. Because Cecile was not able to afford the trip, the boys connected with the audience of the ceremony — Hubbard’s family was in attendance — via Skype.

Both brothers said the experience has further motivated them to perform more charitable acts in the future.

Marcus said he likes to help those with cancer, and Andreas said he’d like to help the homeless. As for their recent act of kindness, however, they said helping out helped ease the pain they felt when they thought about the victims and their families.

“I imagined what it would be like to lose a family member,” said Andreas. “If I even think about it for a second I feel horrified.”

For more information on the award, visit