HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — The famous Golden Arches signs over McDonald’s used to all say how many billions of people the ubiquitous fast-food chain has served over the years. For a few days in Hot Springs, those restaurants are working to serve just one person, an employee in the hospital.
All the franchises in the Spa City, franchised by the Retzer Group, held "Robert Lamera Day.” His family and co-workers describe him, the assistant manager, as a model crew member straight out of McDonald's central casting.
“You know how work is," said David Bartlett, an area supervisor for the chain and formerly Lamera’s direct boss. "You go into work every day and you spend more time with them then you do with your own family sometimes.”
“He developed pneumonia, which is what had him hospitalized,” said his wife Sheila Lamera as she sat with their daughter and 1-year-old granddaughter. “He's been fighting really hard.”
His wife said Robert started to get sick back in the summer, and six months later, they still aren't sure what exactly he has. He's on a ventilator at a Little Rock hospital, and those bills are piling up.
“We're just all trying to hold strong for him,” she said. “The people [at the restaurant] have done great efforts at raising awareness and bringing people together in the hopes of supporting him.”
Diners are invited to donate, and at the restaurant where Lamera has worked for 15 years, 20 percent of sales on Thursday, Jan. 31 are going to his aid.
“Robert is a great guy,” Bartlett said. “We have a great working relationship. You know he's very loyal, very dependable. He has an I-can attitude.”
Sheila said her husband is the kind of guy who would put off getting checked out by a doctor. The cost of that care can also be an obstacle to a worker like him.
“There are a lot of people that are going without medical care,” she said. “If Robert had gotten medical care sooner he wouldn't be as bad off as he is. It's just a testament to things that need to be fixed in the system.”
But through the frustration, friends are offering hope.
“This is overwhelming,” Sheila said. “This is far and away more than I would have ever expected.”
The general manager expects to keep taking donations through the weekend and a GoFundMe Page has been set up for his medical care.
McDonald's raised $3,615.68 for Lamera.