Coronado’s ‘Sandman’ returns as dying wish

CORONADO, Calif. – Alberto "Coronado Sandman" Avila feels a divine purpose to create amazing sand art pieces throughout Coronado. Through the years, he’s became a fixture in the San Diego beach area until recently, when he was diagnosed with cancer.

In January, Avila was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. It forced him to move back with his daughter to Texas, but he wanted to make it out to Coronado one last summer.

The Sandman was back Monday thanks to the very people he’s so happily served for years.

Neva Kaye lives in Coronado and like many, had missed the Sandman. She got wind of his request through a community blog and created a GoFundMe account. Within days they raised almost $1,700. Plenty to fly him out and stay for two weeks surrounded by sunshine and a community that missed him.

“I was just thinking, ‘What can we do to show him appreciation for the years that he has given everybody joy?’ said Kaye. “He never asked for anything. He was just there doing his thing and so we appreciated his selflessness and smiles."

“I’m really touched,” Avila said. “It was never about the money. The spirit hired me. He looked down at the world and said, ‘I need to give them a good smile.’”

And that he has. Although he’s moving a little slower…he says he’ll be back at his office starting on July 4.

“It’s a gift not from me. I have nothing to do with this. It’s a gift for San Diego to enjoy and to show it to the world,” said Avila.