It’s astounding what the hive-mind of Reddit can accomplish. We’ve witnessed Redditors solve hit and runs, battle PIPA and SOPA, and other feats, but the community’s latest feat may even restore a bit of faith in humanity and counter the notion the Internet is filled with bitter lurkers and trolls: Reddit readers raised $30,000 for a terminally ill cancer patient in a span of one day.
Jake Villanueva, a 23-year-old Vancouver native, was diagnosed with stage four renal cell carcinoma on Father’s Day in 2011. Despite the overwhelming support and well-wishers, there’s little that can be done to improve his condition and has just six more months left before the disease claims his life. With this knowledge in mind, he decided to open up about his condition to the public with a Reddit post.
“I feel like, maybe I wasn’t talking about my situation to the people around me as much as I could have. So, I guess as a form of ‘therapy’ that is why I posted my story,” Villanueva told Digital Trends. “It just allowed me to put down anything that I may have been holding in. Also, when you get hundreds of messages telling you how much of an inspiration you are, that helps too.”
What he had not expected was for thousands of dollars in donations to flow in from the generosity of Redditors. Portland-based Redditor Lindsay Minar got the ball rolling with a GoFundMe account to “Send OceanSkys on Vacation.”
“It was definitely disbelief; I thought I could possibly still be dreaming. I was frantically checking Google to see if the site that the fund was set up on was real, or what was going on,” Villanueva said. The fund ballooned to $30,000 before Minar shut down the account to collect the funds on Villanueva’s behalf. An astounding $7,500 of it came from a new Redditor from Texas, Brad Angelo, who is temporarily residing in Afghanistan.
And it wasn’t just money. Villanueva received offers to house him in Chile, Switzerland and Scotland, free airline miles to support the trip, and dating proposals from a flock of women. He admits there was some guilt overshadowing the amount of money that virtually appeared out of thin air, but to quash his guilt, many Redditors have responded with encouragement.“I gave you money. If you don’t spend it you’re letting me down man. I hope you feel guilty about feeling guilty,” the user InsatiableFerret wrote. “Now be Canadian and say ‘sorry’.”
So what is he spending his money on? “I’ve been out of work for a year, and I do have some bills to take care of,” Villanueva said. “After that, we will be doing the US East Coast trip; I finally get to take my Mom to New York.”
Not surprisingly, Villanueva left us with one piece of advice that he has learned from his journey since discovering his shortened lifespan. “I have a firm understanding of who we are as humans on this planet. I think once you realize that it isn’t all about you, you can simply enjoy the time that you do have, and not focus on the time that you don’t have.”