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World Youth Day’s top volunteer had time of life

Of the nearly 1,250 hours he spent volunteering for Denver’s World Youth Day, Mike Egan doesn’t regret one minute.

His task to find housing for thousands of young pilgrims traveling to the Mile High City in August 1993 was “a great privilege.”

“In reflection, its right up there with the things I’m most proud of,” said 82-year-old Egan at his home in Aurora.

His enormous task earned him the title of volunteer with the greatest number of hours served for the 1993 event.

James ‘Mike’ Egan of Queen of Peace Parish was picked for the spot after he responded to an ad in the Denver Catholic Register. The retired Air Force soldier’s mission was to find, inspect and coordinate with local cities and fire departments in setting up places for youths to stay.

Demands were high and time was short. Egan eventually quit his job at a travel agency to focus on his task, he said.

He has more than a few stories to share.

During the anticipatory months before the World Youth Day led by Pope John Paul II, Egan and the housing crew left no rock unturned in seeking suitable places. They scoured the city for hotels, apartment buildings, parking garages, empty warehouses and gymnasiums that were suitable and code-compliant.

Even the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo’s stockyards in downtown Denver became the overnight stay for massive numbers.

The sisters running Mullen Home for the Aged in Denver offered their expansive lawn for youths needing a place. When Egan asked the mother superior at the time what would happen if it rained, she replied, “We’ll let St. Joseph worry about it,” he said.

Egan encountered the generosity of the Greek Orthodox community who offered their homes. He also dealt with hotel swindlers trying to charge foreigners higher rates.

He and his crew also set rows of cots and lockers inside a parking garage on the Auraria Campus. Other youths slept in church pews, some in the posh downtown Park Avenue West Apartments.

Once World Youth Day began, Egan helped to keep track of youths.

“There was a crisis with lost kids,” he said.

All were eventually found.

The most memorable moment was watching the pope from the sixth row with his wife, June, and two youngest children, at Cherry Creek State Park.

It was a once in a lifetime experience.

“I’ve been very blessed, very blessed,” Egan said with tears and a little chuckle. “I’m just grateful, and occasionally emotional, to have had the opportunity.”

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