Donations Pour in to Help 97-Year-Old WWII Vet (and Cubs Superfan) Attend World Series Game
"All he knows is that he's going to the game and he's so, so excited," Jim's granddaughter, Helen, tells PEOPLE
The last time Jim Schlegel saw his beloved Chicago Cubs play in the World Series, he was a 27-year-old World War II vet who had just fought in Pearl Harbor.
It was 1945 and he received free bleacher tickets for wearing his uniform.
On Friday, the 97-year-old die-hard Cubs devotee returns to Wrigley Field to watch his team take on the Cleveland Indians. The excited superfan has already picked out his outfit (head to toe Cubs gear) and is napping all day to ensure he’ll stay awake for the entire game.
Schlegel, who still has his 1945 ticket, is fulfilling a lifelong dream to see his team play in the World Series again — and it’s all thanks to the power of social media.
When Schlegel’s granddaughter Helen found out the Cubs were headed to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, she knew she had to get her grandpa a ticket. The only problem was the price — she says standing-only spots were selling for around $3,000.
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“I was like, ‘We gotta get grandpa to the game, he’s been waiting decades!’ ” Helen tells PEOPLE. “So I said, ‘Let’s do it through social media.’ ”
Helen set up a GoFundMe page and sent out Tweets to raise money for tickets. Word of her determination spread quickly. Within twenty-four hours her page received over $8,000 in donations. Her campaign even caught the eye of Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s The Profit, who agreed to donate two tickets to Jim.
“We were so thankful for the tickets, but we have all this extra money now!” says Helen. “So we are giving it away.”
With donations still pouring in, Jim and Helen decided to donate the money to the Purple Heart Foundation — an organization close to Jim’s heart.
“He was super excited and in disbelief of all the love and support,” Helen says on behalf of her grandfather. “He doesn’t quite understand how it all happened, because he doesn’t understand the Internet world.”
But one thing’s for certain. “All he knows is that he’s going to the game and he’s so, so excited,” says Helen. “He’s grateful.”
Play ball, Jim!
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