A Southern California man looking to make a difference in the world doesn’t just act like a superhero—he also dresses like one.
Yuri Williams, founder of A Future Superhero and Friends, serves the less fortunate. He visits sick children in the hospital, feeds veterans and the homeless, and more, all while dressed as Spiderman and other well-known movie characters.
He also runs a free art program during the summer for underprivileged children.
Williams said the idea came to him after he lost his mother, Lynda Hubbard, in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. While growing up, his mom, who was a probation officer, helped Williams and other neighborhood kids stay on the right path and always looked to serve her community.
Since 2009 when he started the Long Beach, Calif.-based nonprofit, Williams has helped more than 100,000 people and visited all 50 states twice, going where he feels support is needed most.
Williams said the expression on children’s faces during toy drives and visits from Spiderman is incredibly rewarding.
“The events are so fun; the night before I only sleep about four hours because I just feel the excitement and energy, knowing that I’m going to help somebody the next day,” he said. “I have the costume on and just to see these kids’ faces; they weren’t expecting me to be there, so they’re just happy and able to take pictures, and just full of excitement and at the same time I’m getting relief from helping somebody, and the energy that they’re giving me helps me to go towards the next day.”
After his mother died, Williams said he fell into a deep state of depression for five years, something he had never experienced before. For him, the only remedy has been helping others.
“I just try to stay busy,” he said. “Keeping my mind focused on helping others doesn’t take me back down that depression. That was the rockiest road I’ve ever been down in my life, just realizing, knowing that my mom was not coming back. But in order to keep her name alive, I just have to keep doing what she taught me, and that’s helping people.”
During the pandemic, donations to his nonprofit decreased, but Williams stayed the course. He went grocery shopping and donating food to seniors in need, and for Easter delivered baskets to 150 homes dressed as the superhero Deadpool. At Christmastime, he distributed 100 baby Yoda toys along the California coast.
Williams said one of his most memorable experiences was during a 5K walk where he met a young cancer patient while he was dressed as Spiderman. After learning that the boy, who is now deceased, had a low chance of survival, he rented out a movie theater for him, his family, and other ill children for the premiere of a Spiderman movie. He also took the boy and his family to see a Marvel show at the Staples Center, and dressed up for his birthday.
“Knowing that the doctor said he’s not going to be here that long, I wanted to help him and his family deal with what’s happening because I sat there and I watched my mom die in front of me so I know how that feels,” Williams said. “I wanted them to be comfortable in this transition, so I did all these things to help them transition onto the next phase after he’s no longer here.”
Williams said he has received notes from parents of children who died due to illnesses who thank him for seeing their children in costumes and helping the parents and children to make memories together with the little time they had left, which keeps him motivated.
“There was another child who just passed away in December, and his mom reached out to me the other day and just told me ‘Thank you for seeing my son in two different costumes and just making memories with me,’ and that alone, just that, just keeps me going,” he said. “I’m not here to get rich or anything like that, I just want to keep my mom’s legacy alive by doing what she taught me and inspiring others to do the same.”