KENDALLVILLE — There’s something special about Bailey and Lilly Ruse.
Lilly is 7, and Bailey is 8, but insists she’s 8 and a half. They like to do everything girls do in the summer, like swimming and playing softball.
They also like to raise thousands of dollars for charity by selling lemonade.
Their summertime business had humble beginnings. At first, the girls sold lemonade from a plain table at the end of their driveway. Later, they and their mom, Rachel Ruse, built a stand out of wooden pallets and started setting up in parking lots around town.
And once the money started to come in, it didn’t quit.
“It just doesn’t seem to be stopping,” Rachel said.
Each week, Bailey and Lilly pick a different charity to donate to, which they pick themselves.
This summer, the girls have raised $3,734.71 for places like Special Olympics of Noble County, the Noble County Humane Society and brain cancer research.
Bailey’s favorite charity to donate to was the animal shelter, since she likes helping the dogs and cats there.
“They need food and water and litter,” Bailey said.
Lilly’s favorite is the duo’s most recent: the Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana, a regional charity that sends veterans to Washington, D.C. for a day of visiting memorials and being recognized for their service.
On Thursday, the girls visited VFW Post 2749 and presented an oversized check to Terri Schackow of the regional Honor Flight.
The check was for $1,619.10, written in elementary schoolers’ handwriting.
That should be enough to send three or four veterans on the flight.
“They didn’t have to do this,” Schackow said, “and the fact that they wanted to make a substantial donation to people they’ve never met — who they probably consider old — that’s just amazing.”
VFW Post 2749 Commander Jim McClure was there when Bailey and Lilly presented the cash.
“I’ve seen adults (donate), but not little girls,” McClure said.
As a Vietnam veteran himself, McClure said he appreciates the respect the girls have for those who have served.
“It’s quite a deal for them to do on their own like that,” McClure said, “and I think it’s nice that the kids at this age learn about serving your country and helping out.”
This isn’t the first time Bailey and Lilly have gotten a reception for their fundraising efforts. When they donated to Special Olympics of Noble County, they presented the money in cash to them at Hidden Ego in Albion.
As the girls handed them $100 bills, the crowd counted out loud with them.
“We were like, ‘100! 200! 300! 400!” Lilly said.
Handling this much money is a novel experience for the girls, especially when they got to hold their first $100 bill someone donated.
But even though lots of money has come through the lemonade stand, the effort is still volunteer-based. The only money the girls have made was from a donor who gave each of them $5 and specifically said it was for them.
Even merchandise, which Rachel sells on Facebook and Etsy, is made at home on the family’s kitchen table.
And though it gets hot while they’re selling lemonade, the girls said the feeling of helping other people makes the hard work worth it.