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89-year-old Chicago "popsicle man" gets big payout after Internet rallies

CHICAGO -- What began as a small effort to help out a Chicago man who sold frozen treats has resulted in a big payout for the 89-year-old.

Fidencio Sanchez accepted a check from GoFundMe for more than $380,000 on Wednesday. The online fundraising page launched by Joel Cervantes Macias on Sept. 9 started with a goal of $3,000.

More than 17,000 people donated money after seeing a picture of Sanchez struggling to push his cart and selling paletas, or frozen ice pops, in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

Popsicle man donations 00:41

Sanchez spoke in Spanish as he expressed gratitude for the support he received.

Cervantes Macias says the money will give Sanchez financial security. He notes Sanchez loves to work because he believes it keeps him young.

A man who happened to be at the right place and at the right time saw Sanchez do his everyday job, and he snapped a photo of it. He then felt compelled to begin a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the vendor, CBS Chicago reported

“I saw this elderly man struggling to push is paleta cart (Popsicle cart). It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age,”Joel Cervantes Macias, who started the campaign, said on the GoFundMe page. “I had to pull over and took (sic) this picture. I then bought 20 paletas and gave him a $50 and said may God bless him and drove away.”

Macias said he then posted the photo to Facebook, and received a huge response. That’s when he said someone suggested he start the campaign to help Sanchez and his family.

In a matter of days, random strangers donated thousands.  

“God sent it at the time we needed it the most,” his granddaughter, Dulce Perez, told CBS Chicago. 

Sanchez lost his one and only daughter in late July. She was his main means of support, and he is now also taking care of his grandchildren. 

“After my mom’s passing, they felt more burdened to not miss any days,” said Perez.

Now, he has the opportunity to rest — thanks to the generosity of strangers.

“It’s just amazing the power of many people can be so big. I’m just very thankful that people had the compassion,” said Perez.

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