Courtesy AFutureSuperHero and Friends
To a regular bystander, Yuri Williams is a Long Beach local, but to thousands of others, Williams is a real-life superhero.
Donning the signature scarlet costume from Marvel’s popular anti-hero, Deadpool, Williams has been giving back to the community for over a decade with his nonprofit A Future SuperHero and Friends.
And like every superhero, Williams has an origin story.
“This idea came about in 2009 after losing my mother to an eight-year battle with cancer, Williams said to the Signal Tribune. “I was in a dark place for five years and realized I needed to do something before it was too late. I have been a giver all of my life but I decided to create the nonprofit to help me to reach more people.”
Although Williams was helping others, it was the energy he gained from giving back that helped him get through the depression that came after his mother’s passing.
“I never knew what depression felt like until my mother passed away and the positive that came from her death was that I am keeping her name alive by doing what she taught me and I thank her every day by helping someone in need,” Williams said.
Recently, dressed as Deadpool Ross, a fusion between Deadpool and American painter Bob Ross, he set out to give 100 children in Long Beach education based art kits. The effort was a collaboration between A Future SuperHero and Friends, the nonprofit’s Art Healing Program Director Juan Carlos Alfaro, who is also the founder of Creative Flow Arts, and the Arts Council for Long Beach.
“The most reward[ing] part is getting something from the kids that I can keep forever,” Williams said on an Instagram post about the giveaway. “Several kids have given me their art over the years and I still have it. A young girl gave me her penny and I still have it. I thank god for the mask because I dropped a tear yesterday when I got this because a child’s heart can be so pure.”
According to Alfaro, the idea for an art kit giveaway was something that he and Williams had been thinking about for a while and with the uncertainty of the school year, this seemed like the perfect time to do it.
Alfaro said. “I’m sure art and physical education are taking a hit from everything COVID-19 has caused.”
He continued, “I’ve learned [that] COVID-19 hasn’t only sickened and killed our loved ones but also broken down strong adults mentally, adults who are parents and pass over their stress to the kids. So being able to plug ourselves in the community and connect with some of these parents and kids is great. I’ve always said I not only work with children but also parents who also find therapy in art.”
As the school year was kicking off, the nonprofit also hosted a backpack giveaway for children with disabilities and special needs in partnership with the Tichenor Clinic.
Williams’ acts of generosity are not limited to Long Beach. He has gone on two United States tours helping the elderly, houseless individuals, children who are ill and anyone who may be in need.
The idea was born after seeing his friend, Rodney Smith Jr., who had done eight 50-state tours serving the elderly, veterans, single parents and persons with disabilities. Williams asked if he could join.
“The first tour after he mowed a lawn in each state I would dress up as Spiderman and visit an ill child at home or the hospital and brighten their day,” Williams said. On the last tour during the Christmas season of 2019, Williams and Smith reached out to houseless individuals and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. Some replies included bus or airline tickets, cell phones, or gift cards for food.
“We would come back with the items and just see their faces light up like a Christmas tree,” Williams said. “This tour I dressed as Deadpool Santa elf and visited ill children and blessed them with video games, toys and clothing to brighten their spirits for the holidays.”
On one of many of Williams’ Instagram posts about his tour across the nation, he highlights a group of houseless friends, who he met in Anchorage, Alaska. The rough blue tarps they have draped over their legs and the carpet under them are described as the beds they sleep in, clumps of ice surrounding them. To help, a GoFundMe specifically for this tour is linked in the post to sponsor a hotel room or any other needs at other stops.
Other posts show Williams arriving as Deadpool to surprise children with toys and Smith in a Santa coat giving houseless individuals jackets and shoes.
Growing up on comic books, video games, and shows like Spiderman and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood there is also no limit to Williams’ imagination when it comes to the characters he portrays while giving back. Williams can be seen in Kylo Ren costumes while visiting children in the hospital, or doing giveaways as Spiderman, but sometimes jeans and a tee-shirt are enough when delivering pizza and groceries to those who need it.
“Spiderman has been around and known everywhere and what he did was save the day in a costume and when he wasn’t dressed he could walk by you and you wouldn’t even know who he was,” Williams said. “When I’m in that suit it makes me feel like a real-life hero, my mission is to shine a bright light to your dark day.”