Most 9-year-old boys want toys for their birthday. Perhaps an action figure. Maybe an Xbox game, if they’re lucky.

Ethan Flint celebrates his birthday a little differently. Instead of asking for presents this summer, Ethan requested money to donate to the St. Paul Police Department’s canine unit.

With the help of friends, family and even strangers, Ethan was able to raise more than $1,200 that will be used to help purchase protective vests for K-9 crimefighters.

“I just thought it would be nice to donate money to animals,” Ethan said Thursday.

Ethan got the idea after an officer and his K-9 partner visited one of his Cub Scout meetings. In June, about a month before his birthday, Ethan started fundraising online and in person, even knocking on neighbors’ doors to collect money, his mother, Jennifer Flint, said.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” she said.

This is not the first time Ethan supported a cause for his birthday. Last year, he raised money for the Minnesota Herpetological Society to help in the study of frogs, toads, turtles and snakes. He has also completed birthday fundraisers to benefit the giraffe exhibit at the Como Zoo and the rebuilding campaign of the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth after a 2012 flood.

Ethan has been fundraising ever since his 5th birthday party, in which he received a mountain of toys — “too many for a 5-year-old” — his mother said.

Ethan’s parents decided instead to have him each year pick a cause important to him to raise money in lieu of a party.

Sgt. John Linssen, of the canine unit, said he was amazed by Ethan’s generosity.

“I think it’s outstanding, spectacular what he did,” Linssen said. “How many young children will think like that today?”

Currently, eight of the unit’s 18 dogs have protective vests which are bullet and stab resistant, Linssen said. Ethan will present his donation to the St. Paul Police K-9 Foundation on Saturday.

Asked about his fundraising cause when he turns 10 next year, Ethan said, “penguins or turtles.”