Help Paletero "Don Mario" Get Surgery For His Feet - And Get Home To His Family
A paletero makes his living on foot.
Decades of pushing a cart for miles in all weather have left Don Mario with deformities in both feet and problems with the tendons in his ankles, meaning he can't walk normally or without pain.
Don Mario, a 63-year-old Mexican immigrant, walks 10 miles a day, every day, selling paletas around the San Fernando Valley. He's been doing it for the last twenty years.
The father and grandfather has been robbed many times, losing his entire day's earnings. On a good day, he earns around $110.
Now, decades of pushing a cart in shoes worn thin by the miles, are taking their toll, and Mario is in danger of losing his livelihood for good - and any chance of ever seeing his family again.
According to his GoFundMe, Mario has been diagnosed with "deformation in both his feet and tendon problems that prevent him from walking balanced and without pain." The video of him walking, pushing his cart ahead of him - yes, he is still on the street, selling paletas - is painful to watch.
"They told me it would be surgeries in both feet...I told them to wait because I don't have any money to pay. I don't have anything. Everything I had, I lost in the pandemic," says Don Mario in Spanish in the video taken by GoFundMe organizer Luis Miron. "Right now, I'm waiting on a miracle."
"Mario like many street vendors is undocumented so I created this GoFundMe to help him cover for the two different surgeries," writes Luis, who met Mario while doing a school project.
"He has been trying so hard to return home but the money he makes is not enough, so I hope that as a community we can help him get healthy once again and grant him the wish to see his loved ones."
Mario is well-known to his community, and they have rallied to help him cover the costs of his surgeries, treatment, wheelchair, and rehabilitation - and a one-way ticket home to finally be with his family and meet his grandchildren. Mario's GoFundMe is halfway to it's $45,000 goal.
"Thank you to all that you have put aside for me," says Don Mario. "Les agradezco de corazón y un abrazo para todos."
The sacrifices Mario has made for his family, the physical pain, the loneliness, are incredible, but not unique; millions of undocumented immigrants make them every day. They don't deserve to live in poverty and fear, treated like criminals or easy targets. They deserve our care - and respect.