'Chuckles' the groundhog says winter 2012 is cancelled

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 2, 2012
Mayor Leo V. Diana speaks privately with Chuckles the Groundhog (aka Molly) to hear that spring will be early. Photos by Merja Lehtinen.
Mayor Leo V. Diana speaks privately with Chuckles the Groundhog (aka Molly) to hear that spring will be early. Photos by Merja Lehtinen.

On Groundhog Day at the Lutz Children's Museum, “Connecticut Chuckles” the groundhog cancelled the rest of winter for 2012 and predicted an early spring.

“It will be an early spring in Connecticut, as the groundhog is never wrong,” said Mayor Leo V. Diana.

A few children groaned about having very little snow this year. One little boy even cried; but, the majority of the crowd, especially the adults, roared with delight.

More than 100 children and parents came to the museum early on the morning of Feb. 2 to see the groundhog. State Sen. Steve Cassano (D-4) and state Rep. Geoff Luxenberg (D-12) were on stage with Museum Executive Director Bob Eckert and the groundhog's handlers.

Shouts of delight were heard when Diana announced that the groundhog also told him the Patriots would win the Super Bowl.

Student volunteers from St. James School, Bentley School and Glastonbury High School helped set up and guide the younger children to the buffet.

Chris Angell is a student volunteers who has worked behind the scenes at the Lutz Children's Museum for more than three years. He is also one of Chuckles' special caregivers.

Angell is part of a school known as Futures Inc. in Hartford, which guides young people into careers. Angell volunteered about two hours a day for the last three years at the museum and says the museum staff is like family to him.

Chuckles VII is also known as “Molly” to her friends. The once tiny groundhog arrived at the museum three and half years ago after she was hit by a car. Veterinarians determined she was not able to fend for herself. According to the staff, that's when the museum became her “forever home” and Molly became Chuckles VII.

The museum cares for more than 40 different animals. The objective is to release the animals back to their natural habitats, but sometimes an injury or disability is so severe, the museum becomes the permanent home for the critters.

Among the animals cared for at the Lutz are other groundhogs, rabbits, snakes, chickens, fish, chinchilla, turtles and lizards. Children who attend activities at the museum learn all about nature and animals and their natural habitats.

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