Colo. Starbucks Barista Receives $1,100 Gift for Insurance Payment

February 14, 2011

A 22-year-old Starbucks employee known for his sunny attitude and smile received a token of appreciation from customers in the form of a $1,100 check to pay for much-needed prosthetic feet.

Anonymous donations benefiting part-time employee and college student Greg Bertram were collected at Starbucks, 1170 U.S. 287, to help the civil engineering major pay a $2,000 insurance deductible.

Bertram, who had all 10 toes amputated as a child, needs prosthetic feet to help him walk more comfortably. He needed at least $500 for a down payment on the deductible, but in 11 days his supporters amassed $1,100. The check was presented to Bertram at a surprise gathering on Feb. 10 at Starbucks.

“(Store manager) Phil (Goodlaxson) just said, ‘Ten a.m. Come in. It’s gonna be a big day,'” Bertram said. “(I’m) ecstatic, flabbergasted, amazed, blown away. Not ready for it. I had no idea. This is the best gift I’ve ever received.”

At age 1, Bertram contracted bacterial meningitis and pneumonia that required the amputation of all 10 of his toes and two of his fingertips. At the time, doctors didn’t expect him to learn to walk. But Bertram did learn to walk, and run and jump. He played five years of Little League baseball and was on the swimming and football teams all four of his years at Ralston Valley High School, playing wide receiver for the Mustangs.

“In (football) practice I would say, ‘Hey coach, can we go in? It’s cold out here. I can’t feel my toes,'” Bertram said.

He said he approaches his situation in a positive way, noting that when he does laundry with his two triplet brothers, he always knows which socks are his.

Bertram noticed that over time his feet were hurting more often. Starbucks baristas stand a vast majority of their day. Doctors have recommended specialized prosthetic foot casts that his feet will slide into, providing him better balance, support and — finally — toes.

“I wear a size 31/2 shoe, and the doctor said I could get up to a size 5. I’ll take it,” Bertram said of the prosthetics. “I asked him if it would make me taller, and he said, ‘Maybe a half-inch.’ I’ll take it.”

Bertram worked full-time at Starbucks on U.S. 287 for a little more than three months last year before transferring to another understaffed location nearer his home in Arvada, Colo. He still fills in at the Broomfield store when needed. He has made his mark on Broomfield patrons during his short time at the store.

“He’s the guy people come in to see over and over again,” said store manager Goodlaxson, who has known Bertram for three years and helped organize the fundraising effort last week. “He’s fun to be around. Very gregarious. He leaves an impression.”

When Vickie Lutz — a retired math teacher who frequents the coffee shop not only for coffee but to collect leftover snacks and pastries to deliver to Lafayette’s Sister Carmen food bank each week — heard of Bertram’s situation, she suggested the donation drive. She wrote up a letter telling Bertram’s story, with a picture of him behind the counter, grinning as usual. She framed it and left it on one of the shop’s self-service counters, along with a child’s rain boot to collect the money.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Goodlaxson said. “She thought we could raise $500 in a week, and I thought she was crazy. I looked after four or five days, and we had raised $400.”

Lutz credited the people of Broomfield for their generosity.

“I can’t tell you how happy, elated and emotional I was when we found out how much money we raised,” Lutz said. “Broomfield is just an awesome community. A really caring, awesome community.

Bertram met with doctors in Aurora. He said it is expected to take four weeks to mold the prosthetics for his feet, followed by two weeks of physical therapy to help teach him how to use them.

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