To the tune of “It’s a Small World,” Jose Ortega made his usual rock-star entrance – greeting spirited fans with a familiar, “Hello, everybody!”
Clutching coins and dollar bills, children squealed in excitement as the ice cream truck rolled to a stop in their Tustin cul-de-sac.
It was business as usual except for one noticeable difference. Ortega sat in the passenger seat rather than behind the wheel – his son along to assist with the route.
Two weeks before, Ortega, 44, suffered a heart attack.
“He was back at work within a few days,” said resident Mike Hatcher. “He told us he didn’t want to disappoint the kids.”
When the cul-de-sac buddies learned about Ortega’s heart attack, they started a GoFundMe page to help cover medical bills. With neighbors on nearby streets pitching in, they raised $10,474 from 185 donors in just four days.
On Friday, Aug. 21, the friends surprised Ortega with a generous check.
“We wanted you to know how much we love you,” said Hatcher.
Wiping away tears, Ortega replied, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”