'It is a huge blessing': Customer leaves $2,020 tip at Mount Prospect cafe

This story was updated Friday to note the anonymous donor arranged for the server's wife and 7-month-old baby to be present when the tip was given.

Suburban celebrity supercouple Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy may have helped get the ball rolling New Year's Day when they left their waitress a $2,020 tip at a St. Charles IHOP. But this week in Mount Prospect, an anonymous donor - one much lesser known and of much lesser means - also got into the charitable spirit.

Nikki Formanski, a waitress at Jelly Cafe on Golf Road, received a $2,020 tip Monday on the $18.89 bill of one of her regular customers.

The restaurant patron, described by Formanski as "just a nice old lady," didn't want much credit for the gesture.

She opted to call cafe owner Kaitlin Kretsch ahead of time to reveal her plans to leave Formanski the big tip. Then she waited to give the credit card slip to Kretsch on her way out, so Kretsch could give it to Formanski.

"She didn't want to hand her the check," Kretsch said. "She kind of wanted to be out of the room when (Formanski) saw it."

The customer arranged for Formanski's wife and 7-month-old baby to be there for the big surprise, which was delivered after 6:30 a.m. Monday.

"I think the first words out my mouth were 'Holy (expletive),'" Formanski said. "I was completely in shock. You see that stuff happening all the time, but you didn't think it would happen to you."

Formanski has worked at Jelly Cafe since June, replacing her wife in the job after their baby boy was born. With only a single income, Formanski said the extra money will help the family catch up on bills.

"It is a huge blessing," she said. "It really just gives us a foot ahead."

  Nikki Formanski, a waitress at Jelly Cafe in Mount Prospect, received a $2,020 tip from one of her regular customers early Monday morning. She said the patron told her, "You deserve it." Joe Lewnard/

It was only later in the day, when the customer returned to pick up a salad for lunch, that Formanski was able to thank her.

"I gave her a big hug and she said, 'You deserve it.' I just said thank you a million times."

Kretsch, who opened the Mount Prospect eatery with her husband seven years ago, said she's not sure if Wahlberg's St. Charles IHOP tip was precisely what inspired the customer to pay it forward.

But the generous donor definitely was familiar with the so-called 2020 Tip Challenge that's gone viral on social media.

"She said she hopes it motivates people to do even $20.20, because $2,020 is a lot," Kretsch said.

'Open it when we leave': St. Charles IHOP server tells story of getting $2,020 tip from Donnie Wahlberg

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