Manatee County first responders give $4,000 tip for Big Tip Breakfast tradition

A group of Manatee County first responders had the rare chance to sit down for a meal without any interruptions.

On a daily basis, they work to help others, often during unexpected times, but on this morning, they brought help in a slightly different form. 

At Popi's Place Restaurant, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and friends gathered for their yearly tradition called Big Tip Breakfast. 

Gary Masengale started it three years ago after seeing a former classmate in North Carolina doing something similar.

"I thought what a cool idea. Let’s run with that. Let’s see if we can get a group here to do that," he said.

The group puts together a big tip for a server who needs – and deserves – the help. Their first year, they raised nearly $2,500. This year, they gave a $4,000 tip.

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Big Tip Tuesdays of the past

Their server had no idea, but it came at a time when she needed it most.

"Do you know my daughter has cancer?" she asked once she recovered from the shock of receiving the tip.

"It was pretty fun," said Doug Brett, who joined the Big Tip Breakfast this year. "We knew who she was the whole time. Just watching her and her reactions. She never got frustrated with our huge group of people so that made it even easier at the time because she was great, the service was actually good. She deserved a good tip anyway."

"It's emotional and you can really tell it’s a blessing and something unexpected and it’s just such a privilege to be partnered together with so many great people and make an impact in somebody’s life around the holidays," said Masengale.