Peddlers pushing carts filled with paleta, a type of Mexican popsicle, isn’t a sight especially out of the ordinary in Chicago’s Little Village during the hot summer months. However, one elderly vendor recently caught the eye of Joel Cervantes as well as thousands of social media users from across the country.
Cervantes, a local restaurant owner, was passing through the neighborhood where he grew up when he first encountered Fidencio Sanchez selling ice cream. Touched, he immediately pulled over and bought twenty popsicles from the 89 year old man struggling to push the cart forward. Upon taking a moment to talk, Cervantes learned that Sanchez had depended entirely on his profits from paleta sales for over two decades. Over the years, Sanchez has had his wife Eladia by his side to help shoulder the burden of the business. Unfortunately, after falling ill, she was left unable to continue assisting her husband with the pushcart. To make matters worse, the couple’s daughter recently passed away, suddenly leaving them as the legal guardians to two young grandchildren. Though years of selling popsicles had hunched his back and a day’s worth of work exhausted every ounce of his strength, he continued his hard work for the sake of his family – despite being well past the age that most men decide to retire. Before leaving Sanchez behind, Cervantes decided to snap a photo to remember his encounter.
However, the meeting had deeply impacted the successful restaurateur. After relaying his respect for the salesman in a heartfelt Facebook post, Cervantes’ close friend Joe Loera decided to take initiative by creating a fundraiser to support the Sanchez family through the popular crowdsourcing website GoFundMe.com. Initially, the friends set a goal to raise $3,000 for the paleta vendor. Neither anticipated their cause going viral. After being shared over 90,000 times, the campaign has earned more than $289,000 over the course of three days. With over 12,000 individual contributors thus far, donations are continuing to flow in, much to the surprise of Loera and Cervantes.
Shocked to discover the massive response their story has garnered, Fidencio and Eladia Sanchez graciously thanked all of their supporters. Despite the large check they plan to receive at the end of the campaign, retirement seems to be the furthest thing from Sanchez’s mind. Once his wife’s medical bills are properly taken care of, he has expressed a deep interest in paying his good deed forward rather than putting an end to his strenuous career. In an interview with Univision, he explained his intentions to donate a large sum of money to his local church as well as a church in his home country of Mexico. Selflessly, he has decided to invest what remains towards his grandchildren as well as other people in need – proving undeniably that he is worthy of the generous reward.