Flint, MI — Ruby Coyne didn’t want presents for her ninth birthday.

Instead, to celebrate her last year of single-digits, the soon-to-be fourth grader asked her parents if she could set up a lemonade stand and donate its proceeds to those less fortunate.

Sitting atop a plush brown couch with her mom, Jessica, dad, Connor, and sister, Mary, at Genesee County Habitat for Humanity — Ruby’s chosen cause — she told Flint Beat she had gotten the idea from her family’s recent trip to Traverse City, Mich.

“When we got to Traverse City, Dad was like, ‘I want something nice and refreshing to drink,’” she explained. “So we got out, and we started walking, and then there was someone with a lemonade stand! Very coincidental.” 

Tom Hutchison, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit with a vision of “a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” smiled from a nearby chair. 

“But you decided to level up and add sugar cookies,” he said.

Ruby laughed. “Then I decided to level up even more and have them be giraffe sugar cookies!”

“Ruby loves giraffes,” her dad, Connor, added.

Ruby and her family had come to Habitat on July 31 to personally drop off her birthday lemonade and giraffe sugar cookie stand’s proceeds: $440.73. An amount made more impressive as Ruby had sold her wares for just $1 each over a single day.

“It was originally $320 or so,” Connor explained. “But then people that weren’t able to come had been sending me stuff on Venmo or Paypal. And then that continued for the next day or so.”

He said he finally had to add up the total days later, as at least $100 came in after his younger daughter had closed up shop.

Ruby’s stand, which she hosted on her birthday, July 25, ended up being a celebration all its own, the family noted.

Her mom, Jessica, said that after Conner had posted Ruby’s stand to Facebook, their neighbors in Flint’s College Cultural area, family, friends and even staff from Ruby’s elementary school came out to support.

“It was just, really cool,” she said of seeing so many people gather in the family’s front yard.

Standing up from the couch, Ruby walked over to Hutchison and presented the executive director with a check totaling her whole birthday’s proceeds.

“I was just so moved that you decided to do a fundraiser for us,” he said. “I thought that was so sweet.”

In all, even though Ruby had chosen to give a gift rather than receive one, she did end up getting a few presents for her ninth birthday.

Hutchison thanked the young philanthropist for her donation with a goody bag containing a Habitat for Humanity t-shirt, chocolates and a teddy bear named Sawyer.

Ruby Coyne, 9, poses with Tom Hutchinson, executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity after presenting him with a donation. The donation, totaling over $440, came from Ruby’s birthday lemonade stand. (Photo courtesy Habitat for Humanity)

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....