The family of a Dublin man based in America who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, has raised over $90,000 in two days after they had canceled their medical cover to pay towards a college fund for their daughters.
Originally from Dublin, Ronan Winter, who is a former student of Blackrock College, was diagnosed six months ago with stage four esophageal cancer.
The business consultant, who left Ireland in 1989, now lives in California with his American wife Diane and two daughters Keelan, 15, and 11-year-old Keara.
In six months, Winter has gone from a vibrant family man to a shadow of his former self. The story of his 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.
Believing he was healthy, Winter decided to cancel the life insurance policy he had been paying into for 15 years and to concentrate on bolstering a college fund for his two teenage daughters.
Tragically, he received his diagnosis on December 23 last year and within weeks the cancer had spread to his lungs, his spine, his liver and his arms.
His niece Courtney Russell began an online fundraising campaign two days ago to help the family with the mounting medical bills, explaining: "The girls' college funds are drained, their savings gone. Uncle Ronan was the breadwinner.”
Paying tribute to her uncle on gofundme, Courtney wrote:
“Originally from Ireland, my uncle moved to the States, gained citizenship and eventually married my aunt. Even after all these years, he's still got the cool accent. He has an insatiable zest for life, he wanted to see the world and he wanted to see it with his family by his side.”
Posting photos of her uncle before and after his diagnosis, she tells of his dedication to his two girls.
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 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.
“He lives for them. His ultimate goal is to see them go off to the colleges of their dreams and be all they can ever possibly want to be. His children and his wife are two of the most important things in his life. He would go to the ends of the earth for them.”
Telling the story of her uncle's battle with the disease that has reduced him to a shadow of his former self, Russell explains that doctors have said there is nothing more they can do for Winter.
Winter is now too weak for a feeding tube, surgery is too invasive and he currently receives around the clock hospice care.
“His girls get to watch him slowly waste into nothing. He cannot speak, he hardly eats, and he sleeps most of the day. It's absolutely devastating.”
His wife Diane has been his primary carer at home and is faced with paying for mounting medical expenses as well as mortgage and household bills.
To help support the Winter Family here - www.gofundme.com/ronanwinterfamily.