CALEDONIA — A $10,000 fundraising goal has been set to benefit Mellisa Blanchette, who has stepped in to run Burgey’s Pub & Prime, 8619 E. Frontage Road, in the midst of two heavy blows — the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic on her father’s bar-restaurant, and the critical injury of her father, Kevin Burgey, in a May 3 motorcycle crash.
Burgey was out with friends on his first motorcycle ride of the year, was transported to Crossing Rivers Health Medical Center in Prairie du Chien and subsequently taken by medical helicopter to Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, the nearest trauma center.
“As an experienced rider, we were all shocked to hear this, but it is becoming clear that his rear tire unexpectedly blew out, causing immediate loss of control,” Blanchette said. “A couple of friends in the group he was traveling with are first responders and a passerby happened to be a physician who immediately began CPR on Dad while waiting for paramedics to arrive.”
Blanchette said her father remained in critical condition as of Friday at Gundersen.
“His injuries are life-threatening and our biggest concern are the head injuries he sustained,” she said. He’s on a ventilator and heavily sedated, with an EVD in his head to relieve excess fluid buildup, and a chest tube, she said.
“We are doing everything in our power to be sure dad is being cared for, both physically and mentally,” she said.
Blanchette, who works alongside her father at Burgey’s, told The Journal Times on Friday that plans are underway to transport her father to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa for a “second opinion” on his condition.
A ‘retirement plan’
A retired operating engineer, Burgey has owned Burgey’s Pub & Prime since 2013, with Blanchette noting the bar-restaurant was her father’s “retirement plan.” His parents had previously operated The Opry in Oak Creek, and he had helped his parents manage it.
“When he was done working, he wanted to do that again,” Blanchette said.
Like many small business owners these days, Blanchette said her father’s life had already been complicated by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations placed on bars and restaurants by the Safer at Home order.
“Dad was using his own personal money to cover payroll,” Blanchette said.
GoFundMe account started
Burgey’s nephew, Seth Burgmeier of Oak Creek, set up a GoFundMe fundraising account to benefit Blanchette.
“I just wanted to help in any way so she doesn’t have to worry about the financial burden of this,” Burgmeier said, noting that Blanchette is working hard “to keep his business going” while Burgey is “fighting for his life” in the hospital. “We have no idea yet what the future holds with Uncle Kevin, as the situation is day to day, but we know he is one of the strongest men there is and he has an army of people praying for him.”
While Blanchette and her fiancé, Ben Urban, have reopened Burgey’s, Burgmeier said their reopening of the business has been complicated by the “huge financial headache” of a variety of issues, including a lack of critical access to business accounts and finances and the crippling economic effects of the pandemic and the state’s Safer at Home order, the extension of which was overturned Wednesday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“Mellisa has been working with her dad the last couple of years at Burgey’s and has now had to completely take over the business and navigate things on top of everything going on with her dad,” he noted. “Mellisa’s main source of income for herself and her three children has come through working with her dad at Burgey’s.”
Outpouring of support
As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, a total of 113 donors had contributed a combined $6,950 in four days to the GoFundMe account, which can be found at https://gf.me/v/c/tsm/help-kevin-and-burgey039s-pub-fight.
Burgmeier is gratified by the outpouring of donations.
“I think it’s a testament about how people feel about my uncle,” he said. “My Uncle Kevin is one of the most generous people you could meet. He’d do anything for anyone. That’s why so many people are donating he’s a guy that would give you the shirt off his back and the last dollar in his wallet if you were in need. Now I’m hoping we can help him, even though he wouldn’t want a handout. I know for certain he wouldn’t want his daughter to be stuck with the financial burden of running their business during this time.”
Blanchette told The Journal Times that the GoFundMe donations will be used to support the continued operations of her father’s business, as well as help with her dad’s ongoing personal and medical expenses.
“We’re facing a business that we have to keep running, that my dad would want us to keep running,” she said. “I don’t have full access to the business accounts … and the fact that our business was directly affected by our not being able to fully operate during the COVID shutdown meant my dad was using his own personal money to help keep the business afloat so we could keep our employees paid and provide our regular customers with food service the best we could in all of us. The bills don’t stop and the bills don’t diminish just because you’re not able to operate at full capacity. The mortgage on the bar didn’t stop. The gas and electric doesn’t stop. Those things don’t stop just because you can’t operate. Obviously we are now facing, even though my dad has insurance, major, major medical bills.”
Blanchette has been touched by the support shown for her father in a variety of ways.
“The support has been amazing,” she said. “The outpouring of support we’ve received in such a short amount of time just goes to show how well-loved my dad is. People are willing to do what they can. My dad has held multiple fundraisers and benefits for people in the community when things have happened. It’s been amazing to see people rally around my dad the way that they have. We’re getting hundreds and hundreds of comments and prayers in support of my dad. Everyone’s support has meant so much through all of this.”
Regular updates on Burgey’s condition are being posted online at the Burgey’s Pub & Prime Facebook page, as well as the Go Fund Me fundraiser site.(tncms-asset)6c717ecc-96ea-11ea-913d-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Kevin Burgey and daughter Mellisa Blanchette