WICKER PARK — A Wicker Park restaurant is raising money to help an employee who was injured in an accident at home this month.
Gary Welch, who has bartended and served for about a year at Mac’s Wood Grilled at 1801 W. Division St., was seriously injured in the accident. He hasn’t been able to work in about a month, and he doesn’t have insurance.
To help Welch with expenses, Mac’s has launched a GoFundMe. It’s raised about $6,500 of its $10,000 goal.
“It’s daunting. Hospitals are not cheap, and I don’t have health insurance; most people in the service industry don’t,” Welch said. “My bar was so nice to start that for me, I would have never done it on my own.”
The accident happened several weeks ago as Welch was cleaning his home. He slipped on his stairs, where his dog had been running, he said.
“I slipped down the stairs and saved the dog instead of myself. … I slipped and that was my first reaction, to not fall on the dog,” Welch said.
Welch broke three ribs and collapsed a lung in the fall, leaving him in the hospital for five days, he said.
“There’s not much you can do about the ribs — just wait, patience,” Welch said. “The collapsed lung, they had to put a tube through my ribs into my lungs and suck out all the air that wasn’t being pushed out. The doctor told me if I had waited 24 hours it could have possibly killed me, without treatment.”
Welch hopes to return to work next week, he said.
Welch said he loves working at Mac’s and likened it to the bar in “Cheers,” where “everybody knows your name.”
Meg Yerrapothu, a Mac’s regular and Wicker Park resident, echoed that sentiment. Yerrapothu has been spreading the word about Welch’s fundraiser on social media.
Yerrapothu started going to the bar a few years ago and immediately bonded with the bartenders and other patrons, she said.
“Going in there, it definitely felt like a family environment. Like they cared about what I was going through,” she said.
Yerrapothu said Welch, bartender Bob Skelton and other staff have made her feel like part of a community. They helped Wicker Park — where she moved in 2019 — become home, she said.
Yerrapothu even met some of her best friends at Mac’s — because Welch introduced them.
“Gary was like, ‘Hey, there’s these two people at the end of the bar I think you’d be friends with,’ and those people turned out to be very, very close friends of mine now,” she said. “We always joke about it, like ‘when are we getting a plaque at this bar where me met.'”
Welch said he’s recovering well at this point, and it no longer hurts when he sneezes or laughs.
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