Calif. CO recognized for his off-duty work with his ‘superhero’ nonprofit
The CO dresses up as iconic figures from the Marvel and Star Wars universes to deliver gifts to children at hospitals
By Eric Licas
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — When he was growing up, Yuri Williams’ mother, Lynda C. Hubbard, would bring him to work with her at Los Angeles County’s Central Juvenile Hall on the rare occasions she couldn’t find a babysitter. Whenever she did, he’d wind up taking home toys that were meant for kids held at the facility but couldn’t be allowed in for security reasons.
“Getting that Spider-Man toy from my mother’s job might have set off everything that I’m doing today, wearing costumes and everything,” he told the Daily Pilot over the phone Thursday.
He also got a firsthand look at the relationships she built with teens charged with serious crimes who were in juvenile hall. Williams recalled how his mom, a woman who stood roughly 5 foot 2, confidently approached a tall young man with a heavy build who was pounding furiously on the walls of his room. When she opened the door and asked what was going on, he began pouring his heart out to her and wound up breaking down in tears in her arms.
What Williams saw drew him to follow in his mother’s footsteps. He became a deputy juvenile correctional officer for the Orange County Probation Department, and their bond deepened as she guided him through the early portion of his career.
When she died of cancer in 2009, Williams fell into a state of depression that lingered for years. He tried to call his mother while sitting in a parking lot before work one morning and began to weep as the line rang. That day, he decided he needed to do more for others to honor her memory.
Five years ago Williams created the nonprofit A Future Superhero and Friends. Its name and mission are inspired by the characters his childhood toys were modeled after, and it is dedicated to continuing his mother ‘s legacy of kindness to those in need.
Williams dresses up as iconic figures from the Marvel and Star Wars universes to deliver gifts and go on special outings. Each winter he visits a family from every state in the U.S. to help brighten their holidays. On his most recent tour, he and his nonprofit surprised a boy in Buffalo, N.Y. diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that forces him to stay home most of the time by giving him a brand-new gaming system.
“I asked his mom, ‘Has your son ever asked you for a Playstation 5 ?’ Williams said. “You could hear in her voice she was crying as she said ‘Yes, but I couldn’t afford it.’”
“She gave me the most powerful hug, and I had this Stormtrooper armor on and it felt like she was going to break it!” he added.
A Future Superhero and Friends also serves homeless veterans in Orange and Los Angeles counties. In addition to providing essential supplies to people living on the street, it also hosts art classes that can help them process or escape what can often be dehumanizing living situations.
Williams still dresses up when visiting homeless people.
“I went down to skid row [and] the houseless community loved it. There were times when I went without the costume, but I had built this relationship with people who were calling me Spider-Man. I go out there and they told me to go back home and get it. That told me I was doing something right.”
The nonprofit doesn’t place limits on the scope of its mission. It has helped start a community pantry in Arkansas, celebrated birthdays with people with disabilities who struggle to make friends and received a wide variety of requests from people across the country. So far, none have been denied outright.
“I can’t save everyone, but I’d never tell anybody no, " Williams said. “I tell them I’ll be back, and that’s my word.”
Running the nonprofit has been a challenge for Williams, who says he spends a large portion of his salary to operate it and a lot of his time securing donors. He conceded that he had questions about whether or not he could keep it going as recently as last year.
But his spirits were recently bolstered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ formal recognition of the charitable work done by Williams and A Future Superhero with Friends during a public meeting on Jan. 24. And, most importantly, his daughter continues to support his mission.
Williams said he plans to keep A Future Superhero and Friends running after he retires. He is currently setting up a party for a local child with intellectual disabilities and planning out his next cross-country tour.
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