Most days in Chicago's Little Village, residents can see Fidencio Sanchez donning a yellow baseball cap while slowly pushing a freezer cart through the streets. At 89-years-old, Sanchez has been a paletero—or ice cream vendor—for years, first selling frozen treats to his neighborhood after his daughter's death, hoping to find a way to keep up with expenses.
For those lucky enough to have put some money away, old-age means retirement and Florida sunshine, not hard labor and the cracked sidewalks of the Windy City. One customer, a man named Joel Cervantes Macias was heartbroken after learning Sanchez's story and decided to buy 20 paletas for $50 from the vendor.
But Macias didn't stop there. Later at home, he would set up a GoFundMe campaign for the paletero, hoping to raise $3,000 to help Sanchez retire. Instead, the fund quickly leapfrogged its original goal, raising more than $300,000 from donors all over the world in just a few short days.
"It broke my heart seeing this man who should be enjoying retirement still working at this age," Macias told CNN. "I think the picture pulled at a lot of heartstrings ... and that is one of the reasons a lot of people are donating. It shows that people appreciate hard work."
Sanchez, orphaned as a child and put to work in the fields of his native Morelos, Mexico, has been working his whole life. And despite feeling grateful toward Macias and his supporters online, he isn't sure if he's ready to give up his ice cream truck just yet.
"I feel my body is starting to give up on me," Sanchez said. "At some point, it's not going to have the capacity that it used to. But I don't want to stop working."
"I'm very grateful and very happy," he added. "And I'll stop working soon."