Reddit users quickly raise $30k to gift terminally ill man

Posted at 10:34 PM, Jun 11, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-11 22:36:07-04

Surrey, British Colombia--Thanks to the power of social media, a terminally ill Canadian man is planning one last adventure.

He posted his story on a social media site, thinking others might respond to it.

"Hello, Reddit. I'm 23 years old and on Father's Day 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cell carcinoma."

With those words Jake Villanueva meant to share his struggle with terminal cancer on the social news website.

"I thought that was a little bit of a unique situation and that people would want to respond to that,” said Villanueva.

What happened next astounded him."At least 5,000 people commenting about it and messaging me about it."

Reddit users vote on news stories or submitted items like Jake’s, pushing them up or down in popularity.

All those comments rocketed his posting to the top of what's called the "front page of the internet."

That's where American Lindsay Minar found him. "How he really wanted to go on one big last trip... I thought why can't we just help him get there?”

She opened an account for donations, and the money poured in. More than $30,000 dollars from 1,200 donors in just 24 hours.

"I was just stunned,” said Jake’s mother, Stacey Villanueva.

Jake's mom says he's already beaten the odds by lasting twice as long as the original prognosis of six months, and that the generosity has given him new hope.

"When you're told you have a terminal disease, you can never work again, you basically have to come home and live with your parents, can you imagine at 22 what that must feels like? It feels like your world has stopped. And I see that world hasn't stopped,” said Villanueva.

Neither has his battle.

Jake only has one kidney left and needs daily chemotherapy pills which trigger headaches and nausea.

But he plans to use the donations for a trip to New York, and hopes to take up invitations to visit his many supporters.

"There's like offers for come drive my Lamborghini in Switzerland or something like that,” he said.

But he's taking things one step at a time.

Villanueva was so overwhelmed he asked Minar to close the account, saying he has more than enough money to realize his travel dreams.

The only thing in the way now is the prognosis.

"It's not very good at all, but I wouldn't have thought I'd be sitting here and having this interview a year later with you."