Ronan Winter likely won't live to see his daughters Keelan, 15, and Keara, 11, grow up. But the kindness of an Internet community could bring a small bit of solace to his family.
The husband and father of two girls was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer in December 2013. In six months, Winter has gone from a vibrant family man to a sliver of his former self. The story of Winter's cancer battle spread online after his niece, Courtney Russell, shared the details with heartbreaking photographs on Imgur.
Russell detailed her uncle's struggle and the emotional and financial impact it has had on his family. She explains that though Winter always worked hard to provide for his wife and children, he can no longer leave his bed to work. As a result, the family has wiped out its savings to pay for medical expenses, including Keelan's and Keara's college funds.
Winter's story rose the the top of the photo-sharing platform on Monday, and included a link to a GoFundMe page created by Michelle Nagelvoort, a friend of the Winter family. Russell humbly asked for donations — and so far, the community has helped raise more than $62,000 to cover the family's medical expenses.
Russell told Mashable that she is truly grateful for this show of support from her fellow Imgur users.
"I feel like I have been repeating myself for the past 24+ hours, but I truly can never, ever, adequately express how thankful I am to this community and to our own friends and family," she said. "It has been one milestone after another and they just keep coming."
Russell added that her aunt — Winter's wife — is in shock over the kindness of strangers, and didn't expect the crowdfunding effort to reach beyond her friends and family.
"This whole experience has been a testament to the kindness that humanity has to offer," Russell said. "It's heartwarming."