More than $96,000 has been raised to support an 80-year-old Mississippi man who spent his life’s savings paying for his late wife’s cancer treatment.
Kenneth Smith of Gulfport and his now-deceased wife Helen would sell bags of wood kindling for $5 each at the side of the road to gather funds for her medical bills, reports The Daily Mail.
Her half of the couple’s social security payments, however, was stopped when she passed away in October.
Since then, Smith has continued to sell wood kindling on the roadside as community passers-by drew attention to his plight.
Smith’s son Leslie set up a GoFundMe page to help his father, who presently lives on the fixed Social Security income. The “Wood Man’s Widower fund” was nearing $100,000 after seven days, surpassing the set goal of $60,000.
“He is 80 years old and has always been a hard working man all of his life,” the page says of Smith.
“She was right here with me,” Smith told local news station WLOX. “She would sit and wave at all the people that would come by.”
And he still feels like her spirit is watching over him.
“She’s a proud woman because she’s looking down on me,” he said.
The kindling seller first garnered public attention when a woman named Jessica Pittman wrote about him in a Facebook post that’s since gone viral.
“If y’all need any kindling wood please come buy from this precious 80 year old elderly man,” Pittman wrote.
“Last year he was there selling as well but he had his sweet little wife Helen with him,” she continued. “This year he is alone … My heart breaks every time I pass him. He waves at every single car that passes. Friday I was at the stop sign as a funeral procession was passing by. And he was standing alert with his straw hat over his heart.”
Smith’s supporters would leave kind messages for Smith on the fundraising page.
“I pray this number continues to grow, in order to get his head above water, [and] some breathing room for a bit,” wrote one commenter.
“I’ve never seen anyone more deserving of community support than this gentleman!” commented another. “I pray the entire family has a joyful Thanksgiving.”
Sources: GoFundMe, Facebook, The Daily Mail, WLOX / Photo credit: WLOX, Pixabay