A hero always comes to the rescue for anyone in need, no matter how far the cry for help. In 25 days, Yuri Williams traveled to all 50 states to inspire communities that need hope.
His quest? Bringing smiles to hospitalized children by dressing up as a superhero. But Williams’s superhero act does not end when he takes off his Spiderman or Deadpool costume.
With his daughter’s blessing, Williams, 43, completed his second tour of the United States in December 2019, where he dressed as popular superheroes to cheer up children at hospitals and visited the elderly at care facilities. Williams, an Orange County correctional officer, took a month off to embark on the project using his own money and grants from companies like Walmart.
“I do this because I love giving,” Williams said. “Every time, the day before [an appearance], I cannot sleep because I’m just like a little kid, excited because I’m going to make someone else happy.”
Williams founded A Future Superhero and Friends in 2017, a Long Beach non-profit thats mission is to serve people in need including veterans, the homeless and hospitalized children. A Future Superhero and Friends organizes food drives, blood drives, free movie nights and most notably, appears at hospitals with Williams dressed from head to toe as a superhero.
The decision to start the organization came during what Williams considers one of the most difficult times in his life, the passing of his mother, Lynda, whom he lost to cancer in 2009.
For five years, Williams grieved the death of his mother. It came to a head on his wa
y to work early one morning, when Williams found himself picking up his phone to call his mother, something he used to do every day, only to realize that no one would answer.
While he gathered himself, he scrolled through Facebook and came across two individuals who were giving back to their communities, a police officer in Arkansas named Tommy Norman and a cosplayer known as Hip Hop Trooper. Williams, who would later go on to befriend both of them, knew he needed to channel his loss and love for his mother to create A Future Superhero and Friends.
“My mom taught me how to give,” Williams said. “My thing is to keep my mom’s name alive by doing what she taught me. That’s what I live by every day.”
From giving out lottery tickets on the street to teaming with apparel company Bombas to provide socks to the homeless, Williams sought out different ways he could perform acts of kindness in a time that he says is filled with distrust.
His mission to help is aided by individuals like 70-year-old Rosemarie Cayetano, who has donated 250 hand-crocheted scarves for Williams’ cause. The two met when Williams saw her post about her handmade scarves on Facebook.
“I saw all the good he did and I was hooked on making more and more scarves for him to give to the homeless,” Cayetano said. “One day he posted a video of him giving away my scarves to people and when I saw one on a man, I cried.”
The scarves, like the socks, lottery tickets and superhero appearances, are ways Williams brings joy to the community.
“People think you gotta have money to be kind to people, but you don’t,” Williams said. “You can sit down and talk to somebody. Conversation is free. Your time is free.”
Williams, who called himself a “43-year-old kid” after pointing out his bright red Spiderman socks and shoes, saw how important superheroes were to the people he served.
“‘Where’s Spiderman? Where’s Spiderman?’” Williams said, recalling how one man living on Skid Row wanted to see Williams in costume. “That caught his attention and probably brought him back to his childhood again. That suit has done so many things for me and helped so many people smile. Everybody has some type of superpower to me.”
Now, Williams and Juan Carlos Alfaro, the art program director for A Future Superhero and Friends, are creating an art program and mentorship for youth to express themselves and receive guidance that will focus on their futures. Alfaro met Williams last year, and since then they have developed this new program.
“He really puts himself out there,” Alfaro said. “A lot of people would certainly shy away from the hard work it takes to have such a strong presence on the streets as he does.”
The art program is not the only act Williams has planned for 2020. He is also preparing for a third tour across America.
“My thing is to inspire somebody else to be the next A Future Superhero, and that’s the reason I named it that,” Williams said. “I feel that when I’m not here anymore, the next A Future Superhero is born. […] I just want people to know that there are good people out here doing good things.”