Bartender aims to raise $20,000 in tips for veterans on Christmas

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Most folks would rather spend Christmas with family and friends rather than being at work, but one employee of Sea Critters Café in St. Pete Beach takes a different approach.

The restaurant's head bartender, Ian O'Connell volunteers to work a double shift on Christmas in an effort to give back and help others.

For the past eight years, O'Connell has donated all of his Christmas Day tips to Bay Area nonprofits that benefit veterans.

Over the years, O'Connell's mission has grown from a couple hundred dollars to more than $16,000, in 2017.

This Christmas, he set a goal of $20,000 with plans to donate the money to Heaven on Earth for Veterans.

"I'm a Navy veteran also. I feel the need here for veteran support in this area is huge. What he does really does have an impact," said John Deermount, who donates money each year.

O'Connell told FOX 13 he is only able to do this thanks to the generosity of his customers who often visit on Christmas just to support the cause.

"It takes so many people. It started out with a few people matching me, but I get 20 [dollar bills], last year I had $500 just in $20 donations alone. But I have a lot of people that donate a lot more, but it just gets bigger every year. It just tumbleweeds. So I don't think $20,000 is too crazy," said O'Connell.

O'Connell will continue taking donations at Sea Critters Café throughout Christmas Day, until close.

You can also visit the organization's website directly to donate online at