'Open it when we leave': St. Charles IHOP server tells story of getting $2,020 tip from Donnie Wahlberg
IHOP server Bethany Provencher was ecstatic when she realized one of her favorite celebrities, Donnie Wahlberg, had been seated at her table on New Year's Day.
He and his wife, actress and TV personality Jenny McCarthy, were both kind as they ordered their meal and chatted with Provencher, who has worked at the St. Charles restaurant for about two months.
As they were heading out, Wahlberg handed her the folded receipt and said, "Open it when we leave."
Provencher finished taking an order at another table before glancing at the couple's $78 bill. Written in the tip line was "$2,020."
"I couldn't even believe it. I freaked out at the restaurant," said Provencher, a single mother who lives in Elgin. "It was the greatest blessing I could've received from anyone."
Provencher, who turns 38 this month, grew up listening to New Kids on the Block and always considered Wahlberg to be her favorite member. Her childhood room was decked out in memorabilia, and she attended the band's concert twice after her parents waited in line for hours to get tickets.
Though he was wearing glasses and a hat Wednesday at IHOP, Provencher said, she recognized the actor and singer immediately when he started talking.
She went into the bathroom and called her mom, who is all too familiar with her New Kids fandom. But Provencher never mentioned to Wahlberg and McCarthy that she knew who they were, even as they asked her name and where she was from. She didn't want to make them uncomfortable.
The couple, who live in St. Charles, were "awesome and down to earth" throughout the entire meal, Provencher said, noting the generous tip exemplified their kindness. Their children were sitting in a neighboring booth.
"They didn't act the way I thought somebody would act being of that stature," she said. "I'm really appreciative, and I wish I could thank them for real. They blessed me."
On the receipt, Wahlberg thanked Provencher and wrote "Happy New Year" and "2020 Tip Challenge" with a smiley face. McCarthy posted a picture of the bill on Twitter, saying "@DonnieWahlberg starting 2020 off like the amazing man he is. #ihop #2020tipchallenge."
For Provencher, Wahlberg's act of kindness couldn't have come at a better time. She and her child moved to the suburbs from the Miami area about two months ago, she said, and her new Elgin apartment is somewhat empty. The $2,020 tip made her feel like "we're going to be OK."
"This time last year was really bad for me, and this just changed my life a little bit," Provencher said. "I will never forget this. It's one of the greatest memories I could ever have."