Gilbert Hoppe put pictures of his hearing aids on a Facebook sales site for $1,000 with a handwritten note: Pair of hearing aids for sale or trade for a good vehicle.
He needed money to buy a wheelchair-accessible van, but a flood of cruel comments soon appeared under his ad.
“It was pretty rude, the way some of them were talking,” said Hoppe, 75, a veteran who lives in North Mankato.
Several people spotted his ad and stepped in to help.
A spaghetti dinner fundraiser Sunday night and an online campaign raised thousands of dollars.
“Gilbert was ready to give up his hearing so he could get a car to get to and from the VA in Mankato,” said Jena Marie Faue, who helped organize the fundraiser at the Eagle Lake American Legion Post 617.
Others, including Kristi Bighley, Chris Wright and Christina Anderson, had never met Hoppe. But when they heard of his plight, they got to work, organizing donations for a silent auction and putting the call out on a GoFundMe page.
About 100 people attended the dinner and silent auction. Attendees sang karaoke for entertainment, and Hoppe’s wife, Linda, even belted out a song for the first time.
“It surprised me at first,” Hoppe said of the event. “I felt glad that people wanted to help me.”
Hoppe, who served in the Army from 1962 to 1966 in Germany, has been fighting cancer since 2012. He lost a kidney in 2014.
He was doing well for a few years, but the cancer has since re-emerged, showing up in his bones, back and lungs.
His wife has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Hoppe has taken on caring for her as well.
“She has a hard time breathing,” Hoppe said. “We’re both on oxygen.”
The pair have a son, Jim, who lives with them. He helps take care of them and drives them to medical appointments.
The American Legion fundraiser combined with the GoFundMe page had raised nearly $20,000 by Monday night.
Anderson, who had been among the first to jump in and defend Hoppe online, helped out with the event all the way from her college in South Dakota.
“I am so happy that we were able to do this simple act of kindness,” she said. “It just makes you feel good at the end of the day knowing that you helped someone else out.”
Faue said Hoppe has been a giver all his life, even when he didn’t have much to give. She credited the group of strangers for stepping in to help.
“Talk about Minnesota Nice at its finest,” she said.