Laguna Beach greeter Michael Minutoli plans a 24-hour “greet-a-thon” starting at 7 a.m. Sunday, March 26, marking the birthday of his favorite musician, David Bowie, and that of Tim Vorenkamp, a local young man that admired the greeter and would have turned 20 on Monday, March 27.
Minutoli intends to donate any money raised from his antic greeting at the corner of Coast Highway and Brooks Street to a new initiative of the non-profit Live For Others, which Vorenkamp established in the weeks before his death from a rare cancer in 2015.
Minutoli began devoting about three hours a day to greeting passersby six years ago. Now, he is a familiar a fixture outside Sapphire restaurant, dancing and waving to the rhythms in his earbuds beneath the elevated statue of Eiler Larsen, one of the town’s earlier greeters. He’s worn a spot on a metal plate in the sidewalk.
“Tim had a really special heart for Michael,” Vorenkamp’s mother, Petra, said this week.
Her son worked as a host at the restaurant. The UC Berkeley freshman included lunch with Minutoli on his bucket list after he dropped out of college, too sick to continue.
“The kid had a lot of courage; he didn’t go home and cry,” said Minutoli, who never had the opportunity to share a meal with Vorenkamp.
Nevertheless, he’s found a way to become a benefactor to Vorenkamp’s mission, finding a cure for synovial cell sarcoma. “If this kid wanted to hang out with me, I can give back to him,” said Minutoli. He held a similar greet-a-thon last June and contributed $1,100 to Live for Others.
He wasn’t so sure Vorenkamp’s parents would endorse another, but Mrs. Vorenkamp proved enthusiastic because of her own special project, Tim’s Room.
An interior designer professionally, Mrs. Vorenkamp and her colleagues made over her son’s room in the months before his death with extra beds and amenities. The reorganization allowed friends to hang out, listen to music, stay over and offer comfort to their friend. “It was very important in the end; he needed people to come to him,” she said.
She intends to offer a similar service through the foundation to the families of teens referred by hospice organizations. “The idea was born to help other families with teen-agers to create a space in their house,” she said.
Minutoli, who is homeless, recognizes the value of a comforting cocoon, spending a recent weekend at the Corona home of his son. But he still prefers to bed down amid the open spaces of the beach. “The way I live my life, weather is not the worst challenge,” he said, recalling a recent encounter with a woman who operated a wheelchair joystick with her own breath. “That reminded me of my ‘no whining’ policy.”
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