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Top GoFundMe Campaigns of 2016 Will Melt Your Heart

December 26, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

In 2016, GoFundMe‘s most moving crowdfunding campaigns were designed to help the elderly, people who would never dream of asking anyone for a single cent themselves.

Most likely, they probably didn’t even know what crowdfunding was until people with compassion in their hearts decided to get involved rather than look the other way. By stepping in to help people who couldn’t help themselves, these individuals have proved that sometimes, money can buy happiness…it just has to be for the right reasons.

Get your tissues ready, and prepare to have your faith in humanity restored. 

Help Norma Pay for Home Care:

When a couple moved in across the hall from a friendly, sassy 85-year-old named Norma, they soon learned that she had no friends or family living nearby, and was suffering from a number of health problems, including leukemia. She had also just given up her car because she lost her ability to drive.

“The day I entered her apartment and spoke with her face to face was the day my life was changed forever,” said Chris Salvatore.

Over the course of four years, Salvatore and Norma became best friends. He would help her cook meals, drive her to the doctor, bank, pharmacy, and even helped her vote. Now 89, her health has declined to the point where the wireless doorbell he installed to help get ahold of her is no longer enough to keep her safe, especially with frequent falls ending in trips to the emergency room.

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“There were moments when I was awoken in the middle of the night by the wireless doorbell to find her in bed suffering from an asthma attack, on the floor, or even stuck on the toilet,” said Salvatore.

He was inspired to start his campaign while Norma was being held at a rehabilitation center with mere days to go before she’d be forced to move to a county nursing facility, which, Salvatore said. Norma has no money saved of her own, and the monthly social security check she receives from the government barely covers her rent. After being given direct orders from her doctor that she could live at home unless she has 24-hour care, she constantly cried in fear about being sent to a county facility, where she worried she would be “left to die without any dignity.”

Salvatore put out a call for help on GoFundMe that read:

“I am asking for anyone who has seen my postings on social media with Norma and has been touched by her love and her smile to help donate what they can, or just share on social media, because I think the world just needs a little love and kindness right now and that is certainly true for my dear friend Norma. Norma has made me a kinder, more compassionate human being and this is least that I can do for her.”

Norma’s last wish is to be at home with her cat Hermes, and, of course, her friend Salvatore. thanks to

Thanks to 614 people who raised $50,575 in less than a month, she got to spend the holidays with Hermes and her friend, and should be able to live out the rest of her life with at home with 24-hour-healthcare.

Relief for Fidencio the Paleta Man

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As Joel Cervantes Macias was driving down 26th Street in the Little Village area of Chicago where he was born, he saw an elderly man named Fedencio Sanchez struggling to push is paleta cart (popsicle cart).

The sight broke his heart, so he decided to act by taking the man’s photo, buying $20 paletas, handing him $50, and posting the picture on Facebook. As it turned out, Sanchez and his wife recently lost their only daughter and are still heartbroken.

His elderly wife had also been selling paletas to help pay the bills, but could no longer work after falling ill. Along with a man named  Joe Loera, the duo set out to raise money to help them make life a little easier.

Initially, they set out to raise $3,000—thanks to the overwhelming generosity of strangers and the power of social media, nearly 18,000 people helped raise $384,260 for the couple.

The Can Man

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As Matt White drove through one of the “rougher” parts of Memphis and stopped to load up on gas, he glanced over at a man digging through a garbage can. The man’s pants were “barely hanging on,” his shoes were falling apart, and the skin on his arms looked sun-baked and beaten.

“If he hadn’t looked up as I passed by, if I had not been paying attention at that exact moment, I would have missed it,” said White. “The most incredible smile I’d ever seen.”

The man waved at him in celebration, holding something in his hand: a can.

Compelled to go over to him rather than wave back and drive away, White handed him a $20 bill and looked into his eyes, which were discolored and badly scarred. White’s heart began to slowly break as he realized that this man was blind. JP Kibbler, 65, was not homeless, after all—he was a Vietnam war veteran who lived down the street and spends his days digging for cans, using the money to feed his family. He had lost his wife two years prior, and had been taking care of his daughter and four granddaughters.

JP Kibbler, 65, was not homeless, after all—he was a Vietnam war veteran who lived down the street and spends his days digging for cans, using the money to feed his family. goes out all day to dig for cans and uses the money to feed his family. He had lost his wife two years prior, and had been digging for cans in order to take care of his daughter and four granddaughters.

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“He told me that with his cans and his disability money, it’s just enough each month to keep the lights on,” White said. His daughter Jessica is trying hard to find a job, but until she does, he is the sole breadwinner.

White delivering food and clothing to the house later that week, White watched as those four granddaughters run excitedly to the front door, running up to him like he was family. He continued to visit JP and his family, but wanted to do more—which is why he set up the GoFundMe Campaign.

JP’s ultimate hope is was to have enough money left over after paying his bills to buy his girls new clothes so they could go to church together. 

“I’d like to raise $1,500 for JP so that he can take off from gathering cans for a year,” White wrote on GoFundMe, after calculating that that is what his cans bring in annually.

Over 1,000 people responded by donating $34,685 over the course of three months, along with gift cards and clothing items that they mailed to an address White provided. You can keep up with JP and his family on Facebook.

Paul and His Copper Coins

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Paul takes his walker to the corner of Cactus and 32nd Street in Phoenix, Arizona, after dark each night. He and his wife of 54 years live off social security, so he stays till the light at Church’s Chicken goes out selling copper coins.

Lisa Fandrich initially went out of her way to avoid the corner on the way home, because seeing him there brought her to tears—but one night, she stopped over with $10 and two bottles of water and asked to hear his story. Even in the heat of the stifling Phoenix summers, he was simply there working to support his tiny family. 

“I’m so glad I stopped. I’ll be back. And I hope he gets home safe,” Fanrdich wrote.

So far, she has helped raised over $30,000 for Paul, which has gone to helping his wife receive surgery and providing them with a lovely Thanksgiving dinner.

To this day, Fandrich continues to look out for the couple.

Help Saleem Shine Shoes Again

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It was an accident that made headlines across the Bay Area: two of San Francisco’s most beloved and iconic Market Street shoe shiners were seriously injured when a taxi jumped a curb and plowed into their wooden shoe shine stand, destroying it completely and sending both men to the hospital with critical injuries. Sophia Chang, who was a happy client of Saleem, was so horrified at the accident that she immediately took to the site to raise money to help pay his medical bills and rebuild the stand.

I wrote about Saleem because he was not only extremely kind and charming, but the moment was touching for me as Saleem revealed the struggle that he goes through daily. He waits for customers in the bustling Financial District between 8-11 hours a day and only shines between 5-10 pairs of shoes a day at $7-10 a pair,” Chang wrote.

I could hear in his voice gratefulness that he was there, but also sadness that the old-timey art of shoe shining was being forgotten when I asked him how things were going for him.”

Saleem received his first portion of the GoFundMe donations$21,00 to date—just in time, as his inability to work left him two months behind on rent and at risk of losing his apartment. 

Chang has taken it upon herself to check in on Saleem during his recovery and help figure out the logistics of the reconstruction of the shoe shine stand.

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