23-year-old Jake Villanueva from Vancouver, BC became an overnight Reddit sensation this week. After using the social platform to share his struggle with terminal kidney cancer, Jake received an unexpected response from fellow Reddit users.
Jake streamed into the What’s Trending studios today via Skype to tell us more about his whirlwind Reddit experience.
The day after Jake posted his first story on Reddit, he woke up to find an overwhelming flood of comments and well-wishes from strangers throughout the globe.
Within hours, these faceless confidants helped raise $9,000 for Villanueva to travel around the world, along with individual offers of hotel, car, and travel services. Overwhelmed by the generosity, Jake capped the fund at $30,000 with some help from Lindsay Minar, a Reddit user from Portland, Ore. who pitched in by consolidating the funds.
Among the donors were actor Bill Cosby and Brad Angelo, a Texan living in Afghanistan who donated about $7,500. It was Internet hospitality at its finest.
We’ve heard the tales of Facebook and Twitter bringing people together to do social deeds in epic proportions, but Jake gravitated towards Reddit for a reason. He was putting a serious story out into the world and Reddit was the only place in which he felt it could be received in a likewise, serious manner.
Speaking of the power of the Reddit platform and community, Jake offered, “I feel like this could really be a new form of charity. I’m not the first person that Reddit has helped out and I really hope I’m not the last.”
So, how will Jake put his travel funds to good use? “I’m doing the major U.S. cities: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, D.C. for July 4th,” he said. “And then after that if all things go well, maybe Jamaica or Brazil.”
Jake then shared his message to others who are dealing with cancer: “Just never give up. There’s so much hope out there. I’ve seen that first hand and hopefully they can, too.”
Safe travels and be well, Jake!
Check out Jake’s inspiring Reddit thread.