One New Year's day, IHOP waitress Bethany Provencher showed up for what she thought would be a regular shift.
Instead, she was confused about which was more shocking, the size of one tip she got or the "familiar" person who left it for her.
A Tip For The New Year
A typical day at work for IHOP waitress Bethany Provencher quickly became one she would never forget.
With her jaw on the floor, Provencher watched as a recognizable figure walked in.
Goodbye Florida, Hello Illinois
Unassuming, Bethany showed up for work, keeping her struggles to herself.
Provencher and her son moved to Illinois in 2019 from Florida. The single mother of one did not travel an easy road.
Next Stop, Illinois
While Florida had nice weather, it did nothing to enhance Bethany's happiness.
She knew living closer to her only sister would bring her joy. So she bought a one-way plane ticket for herself and her son.
Bethany Believed In Herself And Her Plan
Packing up her son and their belongings and heading for Illinois took some courage and confidence for Provencher.
She was contacted by relatives in Illinois offering a place for them to stay, and Bethany had no doubt she could find work quickly.
Congratulations Bethany... You're Hired!
Bethany had over twenty years of experience as a waitress when she decided to apply to IHOP.
Provencher got the job in 2019 at a location in St.Charles and then knew she had to straighten out her living situation next.
Save The Date
With no other options, Provencher accepted the generous offer by her family.
Until her goal of December 2019, Bethany and her son lived with her relatives, desperately wanting a place to call a home of their own.
Provencher Moved In With Nothing Literally
It did not take long for Bethany to find a place. She found a condo that suited all of her needs.
Using money she had saved for years to secure her contract, Provencher signed the tenancy agreement and prepared to move in.
Sit Anywhere You Want
In an interview with ABC7 Chicago, Provencher admitted to having nothing to move in with to her new condo.
Provencher said, "I have absolutely nothing to move in with...not a dish."
Every Day I'm Struggling
Securing the condo did not put Bethany's troubles to an end. The reality of it was they were only beginning.
The combination of her reserve funds and the expenses of the new place left Provencher strapped for cash most months.
"I Struggle Every Day To Make Ends Meet."
Although Bethany acknowledged her situation seemed doomed to a cycle of debt and struggle, she did not let it get her down.
"I just moved into an apartment. I'm a single mother...I struggle every day to make ends meet." she said.
Welcome To IHOP, Can I Take Your...
New Year's Day at the IHOP where Provencher worked was like most other restaurants open that day because it was busy.
The usual sounds of dishes, cutlery, and chatter disappeared when a famous customer entered.
Things Did Not Sink In For Bethany Right Away
As the celebrity customer and his famous wife and family were being seated, Bethany temporarily lost it.
While their identity was immediately recognized by other IHOP patrons, the excitement seemed to confuse Provencher at first.
I Need To Go To The Washroom
Whatever doubts Bethany had about the celebrity couple's identity were erased quickly.
Provencher said in an interview, "As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew who he was. I didn't freak out at the table. I went to the bathroom, and I freaked out."
Who Ya Gonna Call
Bethany could think of only one person who would believe her and know how special this moment was for her.
Provencher called her mother from the washroom to share her excitement.
Are You Still Working?
Bethany struggled to regain her composure while she talked on the phone with her mom in the washroom.
Her manager, Gabriela Rivera, checked on Provencher and gave her some sound advice.
"Let's Take A Breath."
Though the moment was special for her restaurant and its customers, Rivera did not let Bethany lose sight of things.
Rivera told her waitress, "Let's take a breath, take it easy, and treat him like everybody else."
Bethany Was Cool, Calm, And Collected
Although she needed the break in the washroom to get her joy under control, Bethany was determined not to let the couple see that.
When she emerged, she returned to check on her famous customers as she would anyone else.
Bethany Was Not Only Their Server But Also A Fan
Bethany not only knew who the celebrities were, but she was also a fan of one since her childhood.
"My mother sat in line for three to four hours for me to go see him when I was a kid," Provencher said in an interview.
The celebrity couple and their family eventually finished their meal, and it was time to pay the bill.
Before the check was paid, the famous man had some specific instructions for his server.
Keep This A Secret
For reasons that baffled Bethany at the time, she was asked by the man to wait to see the bill until he and his family left the IHOP.
She recalled, "He folded up the receipt...and told me not to open it until he left."
Bethany's Tip Almost Made Her Collapse
Obeying the request of the famous customer, Bethany opened the bill once he was gone, and the amount almost knocked her to the floor.
His check for his family meals totaled $78, but he left her a tip of $2,020.
"Happy New Year, 2020 Tip Challenge."
In addition to the $2,020 tip left for her, Bethany noticed a note at the bottom from the customer saying, "Happy New Year, 2020 Tip Challenge."
The challenge encouraged diners to pay 100% gratuity on their dining receipts.
Who Was This Man Of Mystery?
Provencher knew 100% who her customer was all along. She idolized him from childhood.
The celebrity couple was none other than former New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg and his wife, Jenny McCarthy.
"He Looked At Me Twice...I Know He Looked At Me."
Nearly fainting in the washroom was a natural reaction to meeting and serving Wahlberg. Provencher was a huge fan and went to his concert as a child.
"I went to two of his concerts, and he looked at me twice," Bethany said, beaming from ear to ear.
"I'm so blessed and grateful."
Once the excitement of meeting Wahlberg and McCarthy and the generous tip left by them, reality set in, and Bethany had to focus.
Provencher had priorities in mind when she said, "Now I can completely furnish my house with my son."
New Kids On The Block
Wahlberg was discovered by famed producer Maurice Starr and was offered a spot in the group New Kids on the Block.
The group climbed up the charts in the 90s and was a big success until they broke up in 1994.
Being A New Kids On The Block Fan Paid Off
To see her favorite member of New Kids on the Block was a thrill, she said.
"Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you Donnie was my favorite," she said. “I was a sick, crazy fan.”
Donnie Wahlberg The Actor
Wahlberg made a smooth transition to acting once his musical career ended. He appeared in notable films like Ransom and The Sixth Sense.
He also starred in over 250 episodes across a decade on the TV show Blue Bloods.
Wahlberg Found Love With Jenny McCarthy
Once his divorce from a marriage in 1999 to a woman named Kim Fey was final, Wahlberg began dating actress and TV personality Jenny McCarthy in 2013.
The couple got married the following year.
Provencher "couldn't ask for anything else."
Bethany's story was heartwarming and inspirational. Wahlberg's kind act inspired other celebrities to do the challenge.
Wahlberg's kindness went beyond the tip. He called the IHOP afterward to chat with Bethany, and she took that opportunity to thank him for his generosity.