Connecticut Man Raises $26,000 To Care For Stray …

CONNECTICUT – About a year ago, we presented you with a story about a wonderful man named Willie Ortiz who was doing some miraculous things for the state’s homeless cats. And it appears this hero of a cat lover is still at it in a huge way!

Willie Ortiz has huge plans for the five-figure sum donated to him.

Namely cat food, and also trips to a vet to help reduce the number of mouths he’ll have to feed.

Ortiz, who is 75, is Hartford’s resident stray cat savior, a retiree who takes nightly trips around the city to care for the animals. He plans on feeding them and gathering ones who need to be spayed or neutered.

(Peter Casolino | Special To The Courant)

An online fundraiser which was set up for him through the website GoFundMe last week eclipsed $26,000 – which is more than five times his stated goal of $5,000.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Ortiz stated Thursday as he, what else, prepared for his nightly crusade to visit Hartford’s cat colonies. “It’s wonderful that so many people care so much about the animals.”

Ortiz’s charity first came to light last February, thanks partially to a profile in The Courant. However, he’s not new to the game: He’s been dealing in cat food for about 21 years, he estimates.

Still, the press attention brought a brand new renewed interest, and Ortiz’s longtime friend Kathleen Schlentz helped him set up the online fundraiser.

In the first initial months, money came “in dribs and drabs,” Schlentz stated. That was until earlier this year when a donor offered to post about Ortiz on Reddit, a website she was unfamiliar with.

“I thought ‘sure, why not,’ ” Schlentz recalled Thursday. “I figured every little bit helps.”

Seemingly overnight, the donations jumped tremendously. Pledges came from near and far, she mentioned.

“I thought it was a mistake at first; I had never seen anything in my life like that,” Schlentz stated. “When I called Willie to tell him, he was practically in tears.”

Ortiz, initially, was hesitant to spend the money on anything aside from the cats. But Schlentz convinced him to buy a used truck, which was to replace the one he currently uses to haul scrap metal, his primary source of funding for the cat charity.

It’s truly a purposeful expense for a vehicle at the end of its life. Every time he makes a stop, Ortiz needs to pause to fill the truck’s radiator.

Whatever Ortiz doesn’t need for food and “fixing,” he now plans on putting into a savings account. Ortiz realizes he can’t do this forever, and he won’t let a thing like death stop his mission.

He’s already left very specific instructions for his family that the money must go to organizations which care for stray and abandoned animals, he said.

“I do this because I love it,” he states. “This is gonna help me keep doing it until I die, and maybe keep it alive after that.”

Watch Willie’s inspiring video here!

Read the previously-published story HERE!