CHICAGO (CBS) – A photo of a Little Village ‘Paleta Man’ received attention from the world, and Wednesday received a payoff that no one expected.
Fidencio Sanchez, 89, was presented with a check on Wednesday from GoFundMe after more than 17,000 people donated, raising more than $380,000 to help the man and his family.
“The original idea was to give him a day off,” said Jose Loera, Good Samaritan. “We never imagined this would be the end result.”
It started when Good Samaritan, Joel Cervantes spotted the elderly man hunched over and struggling to push his cart selling paletas, or popsicles, down the side of the road in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
Cervantes took a photo of Sanchez before stopping to buy 20 paletas and giving him $50.
With the thought of Sanchez on his mind, Cervantes posted Sanchez’s picture on Facebook, with the caption, ‘I respect this man to the fullest.’ Little did he know the image would receive such an overwhelming response. The post was shared more than 400 times.
That was when another Good Samaritan, Jose Loera told Cervantes to start a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes that those inspired by Sanchez’s story would be willing to help him and make a difference in his life.
In a matter of days, random strangers donated more than $135,000. The original fundraising goal was $3,000.
“It gave me a new hope in humanity,” Cervantes said. “Everyone from around the world is just like you and me, just trying to help people.”
Sanchez lost his one and only daughter in late July. She was his main means of support. After her death, Sanchez and his wife would sell paletas as their main source of income. But when she fell ill and could not work anymore, Sanchez had to carry the load and worked hard to provide for his family.
In 11 days, 17,447 people donated funds to his family, gathering a total of $384,290.
GoFundMe said the campaign was the largest ever created in Illinois, and had received donations from people in more than 52 countries across the world.
Sanchez is happy and thankful not only for the money, but for his new friends that made it happen. Besides retiring, Sanchez is unsure how exactly he will use the money.
A group of neighborhood attorneys are donating their time to set up protected accounts and more sure no one targets Sanchez for a scam.