Two men behind the viral fundraising effort that raised more than $370,000 for an elderly street vendor were given a big surprise this New Year’s Eve.
Joel Cervantes and Jose Loera were gifted an all-expenses paid getaway by Constellation Brands and Corona Extra in an unexpected surprise at the Corona Beach House Party during Chi-Town Rising.
The two friends started the GoFundMe campaign that quickly took over the Internet, raising money to help Fidencio Sanchez, an 89-year-old street vendor who was forced to go back to work to pay the bills after his wife fell ill and the couple lost their only daughter.
Viral Chicago Street Vendor to Receive Check After Record-Setting Donations
Sanchez's story garnered national attention when Cervantes spotted the elderly man hunched over and struggling to push his cart selling paletas, or popsicles, down the side of the road in the city's Little Village neighborhood.
“It broke my heart seeing this man that should be enjoying retirement still working at this age,” Cervantes wrote on GoFundMe.
Cervantes pulled over to snap a photo before stopping to buy 20 paletas, giving Sanchez $50, and continuing on his way.
The street vendor typically only makes about $50 during an average day selling his paletas.
When Cervantes got home, the image of the hardworking man couldn’t seem to leave his mind. He posted the photo on his Facebook page, with the caption, “I respect this man to the fullest, but had no idea the image would get such an overwhelming response. It was quickly shared more than 400 times.
That was when Loera came up with the idea to start a GoFundMe campaign in hopes those inspired by Sanchez’s story could band together to make even the smallest of a difference in his family’s life.
The original fundraising goal was set for $3,000. In less than a day, the page received more than $100,000 in donations. A week later more than 17,000 people had donated funds to his family, gathering a total of more than $380,000.
Now, they’re getting a gift in return for their generosity.
“[Joel and Jose] You mentioned being two grains of sand in a big beach to help Mr. Sanchez,” said Jim Ryan with Corona Extra and Constellation Brands during the event. “Well, at Corona Extra, we’re all finding our beaches. So, Jose, Joel, we’re sending each of you and a guest on an all-expenses paid getaway to find your beach in 2017. Thank you for being such great members of the Chicago community.”