Viral photo raises over $250K to help elderly street vendor retire

CHICAGO -- In just a few days, more than $250,000 has been raised to help a Little Village man retire. Life hasn't been easy for him lately, but because of the kindness of strangers, he can now get some rest.

For 20 years, Mr. Sanchez has been selling ice cream and popsicles in the summer and on nice winter days.  He leaves Paleteria Poncho every morning with 200 treats and pushes the 50-pound cart for as long as he can. Some days he makes only $8, other days $80.

“Everybody in little village has a lot of respect for him because he’s a hard worker. Now given the respect, it’s just amazing,” said Palateria Poncho’s Gustavo Pedraza.

He was finally slowing down but then his daughter, who helped support him and his wife, died in June.

Then last Thursday, Joel Cervantes Macías was driving through the neighborhood when he spotted Sanchez struggling to push his cart down the street. Macías pulled over and bought about $50 worth of popsicles from the elderly man. He then snapped a picture of Sanchez and posted it to Facebook.

Once the picture hit social media, it quickly went viral, and good Samaritans inspired by his story started a GoFundMe campaign with the hope of raising $200 so Mr. Sanchez could take time off.  But it’s done so much more.

“On the optimistic side i was thinking he might get $200, maybe get him a week off, and [instead] we got him retired. It’s pretty awesome,” said Jose Loera, who started the campaign.

As of Tuesday morning, the GoFundMe has raised over $250,000 for Sanchez, allowing him to retire his push cart for good.

"The beautiful thing is nobody knew each other. Everyone did it for the sake of love, and it shows that you don't see 6,000 people getting together to hurt one another -- but 6,000 people getting together to love," Loera said.

He didn’t ask for help, but Sanchez said he’s “very grateful and very happy” for the kindness of friends and strangers from all over the world that changed his world dramatically. In an interview posted to Facebook, he said he loves working, and plans to continue working. Sanchez also hopes to donate 50-percent to his local church.

If he does keep on working, a Pennsylvania company donated a solar-powered cart that will make his job much easier.

Click here to donate to the GoFundMe campaign