SWANSEA, Ill. (KTVI) – Tipping stories are not uncommon among folks in the service industry. But an $800 tip?

It took waitress Maggie Carty’s breath away.

“Well, I was at a loss for words when it all happened,” she said. “I had none.”

A family outing brought Karen and Scott Gebke, along with their children Emma and Austin, to Fletcher’s Kitchen & Tap in Swansea, Illinois, last week. The group was commemorating the death of the Gebkes’ daughter, Alice, who died at birth 18 years ago on June 21.

“We were having a family day for our daughter’s birthday,” Karen Gebke said. “She would have been 18 last Wednesday. So, every year for her birthday, we go out and do a family day.”

And on this day, the family had $800 to give away and an idea to do some good. They collected money from friends and family and picked a family-owned establishment to visit.

“We didn’t expect [people to contribute] this much,” Karen Gebke said. “We expected people to give $1 or $2 or, at most, $5. Many people gave $18 because [Alice] was turning 18, and it was just overwhelming.”

When the Gebkes learned Carty shared the same middle name as their late Alice, they took it as a sign. In another bit of serendipity, Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” was playing over the speakers at the restaurant.

“It felt like more than ever [Alice] was here with us while we were eating and doing the donation,” Scott Gebke said. “Like my wife said, the song playing was a sign. Maggie’s middle name was a sign. It just really felt good.” 

Carty called it “the surprise of my life,” adding that the money will go toward her schooling in the fall.

I didn’t even know them when they came in, and I received a lot of love for it, and appreciate it a lot,” she said. “Yeah, we’re friends now. Now, I know them.”