Welcome to Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, whose residents often refer to it as the “Mexico of the Midwest.” This neighborhood is home to an 89-year-old man who became the internet’s latest obsession.
Meet Fidencio Sanchez, the hard-working Little Village local who has been pushing around his cart of paletas, or Mexican popsicles, for the past 23 years. And every single day for 23 years, Sanchez has always kept the smile on his face as he carts his popsicles around the neighborhood.
One day, a hungry popsicle lover named Joel Cervantes Macias discovered Sanchez and his unwavering work ethic. Moved by Sanchez’s dedication to his job and his heartbreaking story (more on that later), Macias purchased $50 worth of paletas and then later created a GoFundMe page for the 89-year-old man.
This is the photo that appeared on the GoFundMe page, which asked for just $3,000 in donations for Sanchez’s family. It’s not hard to see why this photo pulled on the internet’s collective heartstrings, so by the time the campaign ended on Monday afternoon, a whopping $385,400 had been raised for this Chicago popsicle seller.
The GoFundMe page for Sanchez received donations from over 60 countries and became the largest fundraising campaign in Illinois. Thousands of people around the world responded to Sanchez’s unbreakable spirit, and thus he and his wife now have nearly $400,000 in the bank.
Lest you think that Sanchez’s gig is just a cushy summer job, think again. Even during the bitterly cold Chicago winters, Sanchez still hits the pavement to sell popsicles (I'd imagine those are slow days for business).
Here’s a photo of Sanchez with the men that set up his GoFundMe page and changed his life virtually overnight — Macias (left) and Jose Loera (right). One week, Sanchez was struggling physically just so he could make ends meet financially. The next week, he’s rich thanks to the kindness of strangers.
This is proof that good things really do happen to good people.
Even now that he doesn't need the money, Sanchez may not retire his cart right away. Sanchez’s boss, Blanca Gutierrez, has been worried about Sanchez’s old age for a while now, but she knows better than anybody that stripping Sanchez of the job he loves would be a tough blow for the man.
"I didn't want to tell him that I wasn't going to give him a cart because I know he would feel sad," Gutierrez said. "He says he wants to die walking."