Fundraising drive shows city's heart

It's been a banner year for grim and grimmer: a bitter presidential election, a barrage of terrorist attacks and Chicago's summer of violence. One thing readers in 2016 crave: good news. That's why the story of a stranger raising more than $369,500 in seven days to help 89-year-old Fidencio Sanchez caught our attention.

The stranger, Joel Cervantes, started an online fundraising campaign on GoFundMe after buying 20 paletas — Mexican-style ice pops — from Sanchez, who sells them in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Cervantes ended up giving Sanchez $50 for the paletas, even though they cost only $1.50 each.

According to his granddaughter, Sanchez has been a fixture of the neighborhood for 23 years, pushing his Paletas Poncho cart to pay the bills and support his wife. The couple recently lost their only daughter. On the campaign website, Cervantes explained that "it broke my heart seeing this man who should be enjoying retirement still working at this age."

Chicagoans agreed. Donations to the campaign have poured in, ranging from $5 to $2,000. According to Cervantes, he met his original fundraising goal of $3,000 in 54 minutes, thanks in part to social media and Cervantes' heart-rending photo of Sanchez doggedly pushing his cart. Commenters on the campaign site have asked how to send clothing, food and more financial assistance to Sanchez and his wife. Cervantes said he'll keep the campaign open over the weekend, at least.

Cervantes' crusade got us thinking about acts of kindness to which Chicago is prone, a gentle reminder that a warm heart lurks underneath the city's weather-beaten exterior. We've had a summer of extreme violence — and a summer of profound humanity.

There's the group of Englewood moms who have banded together to curb killings on the city's South Side. Mothers Against Senseless Killings, or MASK, just finished its second year of nightly summer sit-outs on the sidewalk between 75th and Stewart streets. But this summer had an unexpected boon for the group: Mothers of all races, faiths and backgrounds made their way to Englewood to show their support for the women — and men — of MASK.

It's easy to get bogged down in bad news. With more than 3,000 people shot so far in 2016, it sometimes seems like the city itself is bleeding. But every now and then, we sweep aside the bullets and buff out the scars to find a city that shines from the inside out.