ATLANTA — Ruby Kaufman, 11, could hardly contain her excitement as she waited just down the street from her home Tuesday evening for a big surprise to be unveiled.
Ruby is recovering from a form of soft tissue cancer. She was diagnosed with it in April 2015.
You ask anyone that knows Ruby and the first things that come to mind are strength and inspiration.
“Ruby is a fighter and she fought really hard, and she was so brave. She was always positive. I think that we were more negative than her,” said sister Ellie Kaufman, 14. “She was always uplifting and she inspired so many people. It was rough but... she made the best out of it."
The reason she was waiting: A basement makeover for Ruby, turning the space into her own personal dance studio.
Ruby hopes to have her own dance studio someday and perform on Broadway. She has a burning passion for dancing.
"It's like the closest thing I'll get to flying," Ruby said.
As Ruby rounded the corner to her house, there were more than a dozen of her friends dressed as dancers waiting for her to welcome her home.
From the backyard more voices could be heard as more than 100 of Ruby’s closest friends and family cheered, “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby!”
As she walked into her backyard Ruby was greeted by a massive cheer. She jumped up and down with joy at the sight of all of her friends and family.
Among the crowd were organizers with the Georgia chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Sunshine on a Ranney Day, who teamed up to make the makeover possible.
Also in the crowd was Coy Bowles, guitarist for the Zac Brown Band and children’s book author. Proceeds from his book helped with the makeover.
Bowles presented Ruby with an autographed guitar, signed by all the members of the Zac Brown Band.
And then it was time for the big reveal.
Ruby ran into the house, down the basement stairs and burst through the door of her brand new dance studio.
“Oh my God,” Ruby yelled as she burst into tears. Mom, Christine Kaufman, walked in and gave a tearful hug to Ruby, overcome with joy.
"I think it is one of the most beautiful things, places, rooms I've ever seen in my life. And I think it's going to bring us all a lot of comfort," Christine Kaufman said. "I think she's going to dance her days away down here."
Ruby’s new dance studio includes floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a pirouette bar, a disco ball and a full size makeup mirror. Hanging on a closet door were new ballerina dresses for Ruby to wear.
“I think I'll be down here most of the time. You won't be seeing me much anymore," Ruby told her mother.
“We're just so appreciative of the gifts that we've been given by the people who love us and the people who didn't know us before this. It's amazing," said Ruby’s father Jonathan Kaufman.
And despite going through such a hard disease, Ruby says she’s learned a lot through the experience.
"I've met so many great people and I've learned so many great lessons in life that, you know, everything is going to be perfect. And I've been able to help so many people through this. In the end, it's not an awful thing through and through," Ruby said.
And her advice to other kids going through what she did:
"The reason God chose you to be in this fight is because he knew you could beat it. And only the strongest kids are going to have to go through this. And every kid out there that's in the hospitals or anything, you're the strongest kids out there. It's all going to be OK."
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