Plant Man: A Boy’s Illness Sparks a Community’s Best

Sabrina McMurray and her son William.

A close friend once told me, “When you write from the heart, the story will flow naturally.”  The unprecedented outpouring of Laguna’s love and concern for William McMurray and his family is a heartfelt story. From bake sales, garage sales, and lemonade stand sales, to larger (but not better) events at Riddle Field and Mozambique restaurant, we have proven again that Laguna not only cares, but also will take care of one of their own in a time of need.

The Penguin Cafe is a legendary local hangout and its visage has become the symbol of William’s courage to return to his normal life. The restaurant’s heart and soul is his mother, Sabrina McMurray, and it is her girlfriends and employees who immediately stepped in to support the family.

Crowds flocked to the Mozambique benefit for the McMurray family.

Sabrina’s closest girlfriend, Kelly Fontenot, was the first among many to take Sabrina’s shifts so she could be with her son. As a regular, I can vouch that service has not missed a beat. My hash and scrambled eggs have been prepared and served with perfection, even though Kelly is an educator by profession.

Mozambique restaurant has become the venue of choice for charitable events. Without hesitation, owner Ivan Spiers offered his restaurant, donated food and the fabulous music of Bernard Fowler along with t-shirts at the fundraiser this week. Is it any wonder that Laguna’s city staff and officials not only encourage but also support businesses that help support our town?

Restaurant owner Ivan Spiers with council member Elizabeth Pearson, left, and Mayor Jane Egly.

Over 350 strong from Laguna and as far away as Las Vegas attended William’s fundraiser.  The event was planned on Kimberly Leeds’ premise: “The McMurray’s would want as many as possible to hang out together and wish their son a speedy recovery.” Fundraiser treasurer Kristen Jones said, “The one thing I noticed is the line of people waiting to hug and talk to Sabrina… It was amazing! And the kids that came up to William to say hi and hang out with him; they were great!”

Not willing to risk omitting those in attendance (after all I’m not a gossip columnist), attendees included schoolmates, and a cross-section of Laguna who wanted to offer William and his family their best wishes.  Liz Bates summed it up: “It was nice to be around so many people with the same perspective and the outpouring of love on so many different levels, young and old alike… (together) for a common cause.”

By the end of the evening, Lagunans had contributed over $20,000 to assist the McMurray family. For me, besides time spent with friends and acquaintances, the sweetest moment was when Riley, a local sixth grader, donated the entire proceeds of $52 she earned at her lemonade stand on William’s behalf.

Other supporters

See you next time.


Steve Kawaratani likes his hash crispy and his scrambled eggs runny at the Penguin Cafe.  He may be contacted at 949.494.5141 or [email protected].

Photos by Stuart Christensen


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  1. This situation is the result of the cult of individualism that has taken this country back a hundred years.
    Charity is something that no developed nation should force upon those faced with a catastrophic illness. When we again support the belief in the common good, bake sales and free sodas will be returned to the time in which they belong- a hundred years ago. When we support the belief in the common good there will be universal health care or Medicare for all and unfortunate people will not have to rely upon the kindness of neighbors and strangers because for all the good that that kindness does, it leaves a bad taste later on. It reminds the recipient that the inherent unfairness of life can be easily mitigated to a much larger degree if we all agree to pitch in to anonymous pools in order to pay for those who need more help than the rest of us. That is the enlightened way to meet the misfortunes and tragedies that can strike anyone at any time. The smiling faces of the donors at these events belies a very shallow and superficial experience of life. Something about this, the self congratulations by the same group of Lagunites that always are so quick to rather self righteously pat themselves on the back, is disturbing.


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