Cat sanctuary planned for North Peoria

DeWayne Bartels

North Peorian Cynthia Elias is on a mission to improve the lives of homeless cats.

Her mission though is about more than just helping cats. It also about fulfilling a wish of her late son Daniel.

Daniel died last year and had fostered a dream of helping cats for years.

“He loved animals,” Cynthia said.

“We talked a lot about this together. I’m going to fulfill his dream.”

Cynthia said she and Daniel shared a close bond with cats.

“My entire life I have had a passion for cats. When I was five, I saw a homeless cat. I thought, ‘Some day I‘m going to do something about that,” she said.

She paused, tearing up a little.

“When Daniel was five, we gave him a butterfly net. The first thing he caught with it was a stray cat sitting on the air conditioner. We adopted it. He saw the pain in homeless animals.”

The dream is to create a 3,500 square foot cat sanctuary on Olympia Drive. At the sanctuary, Cynthia plans to also tackle educating the public on animal welfare issues, especially the necessity to spay and neuter their animals.

Cynthia said the sanctuary will follow strict standards to minimize disease transmission in the sanctuary.

“Most cats will live in community housing rooms — no cages — of five or six with screened-in porches that open onto an enclosed courtyard where visitors and volunteers can relax and enjoy the outdoors,” according to the Web site established for the effort at

“Cats that prefer human companionship over feline will have their own kitty condos. Families can spend a leisurely hour or two at Purrsonalities looking for their new feline companions, and well-trained volunteers will assist prospective adopters to find the perfect match. Volunteers will also utilize behavioral techniques to improve the sociability and adoptability of the feline residents.”

Cynthia said for many years the Peoria Animal Welfare Society has received more cats than they can possibly place in a home. The results is many cays being euthanized.

Cynthia said the cat sanctuary could at least save 50 cats. Cynthia said she has been working with PAWS and has their blessing.

“Fourteen animals a day are euthanized at PAWS. A lot of them are cats. From what I understand this year is the worst for cats,” Cynthia said. 

“I don’t know how they do it. Their job is such a difficult one. We can’t do this soon enough. Every

day, cats are dying. This sanctuary won’t be the entire answer, but it is a start.”

The cost for the cat sanctuary is expected to be at least $1 million.

To cover those costs the Daniel J. Elias Memorial Foundation is launching a Green Light Capital Campaign to raise the money.

The Elias family is going to do more than talk about this. Cynthia said she and her husband John are pledging $300,000 toward the project.

Cynthia said this campaign is starting at an inopportune time, given the economy and plethora of capital campaigns in Peoria. But, she has faith the money will be raised.

“I think we might be surprised at the level of interest,” she said.

“Animal charities have done very well in tough economic times. I have a lot of energy. I will get these dollars.” 

Donations are being accepted at the Daniel Elias Memorial Foundation, 416 Main St., Suite 1400, Peoria, Il. 61602.