PEOPLE WE SEE: Meet Shawn Dworkin.

In this feature, the Club introduces you to people you see every day, but you might not know who they are. The Club reminds you that we all have names and stories to tell.

Name: Shawn Dworkin.

Cancer survivor. Lives in his van. Here’s his story.

Age: 34.
Place of birth: West Islip, Long Island, N.Y. His family moved to near Tampa, Fla. when he was 1.
Education: J.W. Mitchell High School. “I took the bus every day.”

Change of plans: He planned to join the Navy after graduating from high school. Two months before he was set to graduate from a NJROTC program, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer.

After getting through the cancer treatment, his perspective on life changed. “Originally I wanted to be a marine biologist, but decided to focus on making music instead. I started playing the guitar when I was 12.” His goal is to produce music for film.

Name of his band in Florida: “Minions of the Wind.”

To LA: One of his band mates in Florida bought a van and moved to California to pursue music. So that’s what Shawn did, too. “I was working full time as a custodian at an elementary school making eioght bucks an hour and living at home. I got frustrated, saved money, sold my Hyundai Sonata and then bought a van for $10,000 at an auction. I loaded it up with the bare essentials and headed for California.”

How long in LA, living in his van: Eight months.

Van life: Shawn works part time at a Sprouts in the Valley. He enjoys his minimalist lifestyle. He showers at the gym where he’s a member; he uses the library and Starbucks for Wi-Fi and to charge his phone and mp3 player. He has a portable toilet for emergencies but mainly uses the bathrooms in stores.

Hardest part of living in a van: “How other people perceive you.”

Food choices: Shawn talked about how, as kids, we go to petting zoos then right afterwards to McDonald’s. He would go snorkeling looking at the beautiful fish and then later he would go fishing, killing the very things he was so in awe of. “I decided to not eat animals or animal products, as they are not necessarily to survive.”

Favorite candy: Almond Joy.

Favorite band: Yes.

Favorite movie/TV:Jurassic Park, and the animated series, Rick and Morty.

Goals: “To create community gardens in the Valley.” He volunteers at Kindred Spirits (, a “sustainable care farm.”

Advice for everyday people: “Do good things, pursue your dreams.”

Personal motto: “What can I do to make wherever I go better?”

The interview, conducted by John Hawkins, took place Aug. 21 near the Northridge Recreation Center.