Elderly Illinois ice cream vendor inspires fundraising campaign

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Fidencio Sanchez, 89, has been selling ice cream on the streets of Little Village for about 20 years. (WLS)

An 89-year-old ice cream vendor who strolls the streets of the city's Little Village neighborhood has inspired a fundraising campaign that has raised nearly $150,000.

Fidencio Sanchez and his ice cream cart full of paletas, or popsicles, and adorned with bells, have been around for 23 years.

"I wake up early and all day until eight at night," Sanchez said via a translator.

Just a few weeks ago, his daughter died and he and his wife were suddenly caring for two grandsons.

"We thought, 'What are we going to do? We have to pay the bills,'" he said.

So Sanchez had to return to the grueling work.

"It's really hard working out here in the streets, in the summer and cold winter. Even in bad weather we still have to go out and sell and the carts get stuck in the streets," Sanchez said.

The story tugged the heartstrings of a customer, who set up a GoFundMe page for the paletero. As of Monday morning, the page had raised more than $141,000 from more than 6,500 people - far exceeding the initial $3,000 goal.

The attention, from news organizations and social media, have made him a draw for curious Chicagoans.

"We wanted to see him, buy from him, ask him questions," said Nallely Renteria, who sought out Sanchez.

But Sanchez, despite being gifted with the money, plans to continue working.
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