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'He lives on in the hearts of children' | Sandy Hook victim's family help Waterbury preschoolers in his name

It is changing the lives of hundreds of Waterbury preschoolers enrolled in the Greater Waterbury YMCA school readiness program every year.

WATERBURY, Conn. — The family of one of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly nine years ago has chosen to create wins out of such loss.

Chase Kowalski was killed during the mass shooting in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. His parents have chosen to honor him, by forming a foundation which is changing the lives of hundreds of Waterbury preschoolers enrolled in the Greater Waterbury YMCA school readiness program every year.

On Thursday, his family made another $20,000 donation from the foundation.

"He lives on in the hearts of children," Chase's mother, Rebecca Kowalski, as she wept. "This is so hard."

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So why this Waterbury preschool program?

Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski struggled through preschool with a speech delay, but his teachers worked with him. And his parents have never forgotten how pivotal this time in a child's life is.

"We just really felt that preschool would be the best choice for honoring his spirit," Rebecca Kowalski said.

And Chase's mom felt the families of Waterbury could truly benefit

RELATED: 600 Connecticut kids bike, run, and swim to the finish line at #Race4Chase in Southington

"Many people can’t afford preschool and you have many parents that are both working, single parents that have a difficult time finding childcare," said Kevin Grimes, Executive Director of the CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation.

For the ninth consecutive year, the foundation has donated $20,000 to this Greater Waterbury YMCA program.

"Between the Race for Chase programs that we do in the summertime throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island and South Carolina and Massachusetts and also supporting our preschool programs, Chase's memory is here," said Jim O'Rourke, the CEO of the Greater Waterbury YMCA.

RELATED: Setting their sights on Southington, the 'Race for Chase' training is in full stride

Chase was born on Halloween. So on Thursday, the preschoolers celebrated with cupcakes, cards and singing happy birthday to a boy, who would have turned 16 on Sunday.

"You would think after nine years you would be able to handle it and it never ends," Chase's mom said through tears.

For anyone who makes a donation to the CMAK Foundation on Sunday, which is his birthday, there is a secret donor who will match your donation.

Tony Terzi is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tterzi@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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