Dad Dresses Up as His Favorite Superheroes to Uplift Kids That Need It: 'I Love Helping People'
Twelve years ago Yuri Williams found himself utterly bereft following the death of his mother who had succumb to an eight-year battle with cancer in 2009. With the woman who left such an indelible mark on his life gone, he began experiencing depression in a way that he had never previously felt.
"I worked with juveniles who are incarcerated with mental health issues," says Williams, a probation officer. "I saw depression in some of these kids but I never saw it in myself until I lost my mother."
For about five years, he struggled with many of the symptoms associated with the illness, eventually finding an outlet in the Long Beach, California-based nonprofit he created, A Future Superhero and Friends.
The project is a true labor of love. Williams, with the help of his 12-year-old daughter Jaedyn, dresses up as superheroes to help those in need, whether that be children living with disabilities, veterans, houseless individuals, or simply those who could use some cheering up.
"This is a way of dealing with my depression," he says.
Going Above and Beyond
Williams, whose superhero costumes range from a Star Wars Stormtrooper to Spider-Man and Deadpool, does an event every other weekend, but essentially tries to make himself available whenever a parent reaches out about a child who could use some good cheer. He even makes FaceTime calls.
"The nonprofit doesn't just cater to one category," says Williams. "There are so many different people that I try to help. I want to be able to reach the houseless community, the veterans, the seniors, and anybody in need. That's just the way my mom raised me."
Inspiring His Daughter
Take one look at the smiling faces at any A Future Superhero and Friends event and you'll see that he's making an impact. Not only on the many people who attend, but even closer to home, inspiring Jaedyn to get involved in the community as well.
"I feel like it's important to do things like this for the community so it makes it better for present and future generations," says Jaedyn. "Starting in your community can make an outcome in the world and it can inspire a lot of people to do a lot more things for their community as well."
In the beginning, Jaedyn says she mostly helped out by taking pictures and videos at her dad's events. Now she assists in other ways, like packing backpacks full of school supplies and hygiene kits for those who need them. You'll also find her helping dad out with his costumes, just don't expect her to don one any time soon. She's not so interested in that part of the gig.
"In third grade, when he came to visit my class in a Kylo Ren costume, that's really the first time he ever came in costume in public that I can remember," says Jaedyn. "Nobody knew he was my dad so I pretended like I didn't either. I feel like that really added to the act. I was pretty excited."
Taking His Mission National
Williams' kindness and generosity has already been felt by many, but he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon. In fact, if he had it his way he would retire soon and focus on A Future Superhero and Friends full-time. Until then, he's working on other goals for the nonprofit, like continuing to do a tour of the 50 states at least once a year. These national opportunities help Williams extend his nonprofit's reach beyond the Southern California area.
"My mission is to continue to inspire anyone that sees me or Jaedyn working in the community and wants to jump on board with us," he says. "This does not stop. This is my high. I love helping people in need. I'll be satisfied in life if I can do that."