Donnie Wahlberg Leaves $2,020 Tip at IHOP to Celebrate 2020: 'I Just Started Crying,' Says Server

Bethany Provencher, an IHOP waitress and single mom, got the surprise of a lifetime when Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy stopped in for breakfast

Donnie Wahlberg is kicking off 2020 by making someone’s new year extra happy.

On Jan. 1, the Blue Bloods star and wife Jenny McCarthy stopped in for breakfast at an IHOP location near their St. Charles, Ill. home —and left their server a $2,020 tip on a $78.45 bill.

“@donniewahlberg starting 2020 off like the amazing man he is,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter, along with a photo of their credit card receipt—which included Wahlberg’s handwritten “Thanks Bethany,” “2020 Tip Challenge” and “Happy new year” notes. (The “2020 Tip Challenge” appears to be a reference to a generous tipping trend that started in Michigan, when a server at Thunder Bay River Restaurant received a $2,020 tip on a $23 bill.)

“I’ve loved Donnie my whole life—I was a very big New Kids on the Block fan when I was a kid,” Bethany Provencher, the IHOP server who received the tip, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t want to freak out at the table, so I went into the bathroom and freaked out a little. I was like, ‘oh my god!'”

“I served them the best I could do,” she says of the party, which included McCarthy’s son, Evan, 17, and a few of his friends. “He folded up the receipt and he gave it to me, and told me not to open it until he left. I said ‘okay, thank you, guys, come again. I’ll take care of you again.’ Then I open it, and I almost fell to the floor.”

Provencher, 37, says she was immediately overwhelmed by the gesture. “I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, who does that? It was a blessing,” she says. “I just moved into an apartment, I’m a single mother—by myself with my son. So I struggle every day to make ends meet. And now I can buy furniture and put some money in the bank, and make sure my son is good.”

The surprises didn’t end there for Provencher, who has been a server for 25 years and worked at this IHOP location for two months. Shortly after the couple’s visit, she received a special phone call from Wahlberg. “Donnie called me at the restaurant and I spoke to him. I really wanted to thank him and Jenny because they don’t even understand what they did for me,” she says.

“God put him there for a reason for me, and I know that,” she says. “It’s the greatest thing to ever happen in my life.”

This isn’t the first time Wahlberg has left hefty tips for his restaurant servers. In 2017, the New Kids on the Block singer left $500 for Waffle House employees working the night shift in Maryland, and also gifted a $2,000 tip (and front row concert tickets and backstage passes) for Waffle House servers in Charlotte, N.C.

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For the first time in a decade, Wahlberg and McCarthy spent the new year at home with their family in St. Charles instead of in New York City’s Times Square—where McCarthy has appeared as a co-host of ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve since 2010.

“Sending love and light to all our friends and familia on this warm and toasty #NewYearsEve! ❤️,” Wahlberg said in his post on Tuesday night.

  • Additional reporting by Mary Honkus
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