This police officer spends his free time giving to homeless and hospitalized children dressed as a superhero
Not all superheroes wear capes, but sometimes it helps — and the suit can better reflect the super heart of the person who lies underneath.
One such heart belongs to Los Angeles native Yuri Williams.
Yuri, 43, has a secret identity as a full-time officer at the juvenile corrections center’s mental health sector, a role he has held for the last 20 years.
His desire to serve runs deep in his blood; as a child, he would ride alongside his mother, who was a probation officer well-loved in the community she lived and worked.
“I would sit side by side with her,” said Yuri. “We lived in community where people would see her and, like the mother she was, she would go up and talk to them. She built relationships with everyone she met.”
In 2009, Yuri’s mom passed away from a battle with cancer. The next five years would be some of the most difficult times of his life.
“I lost my mind over a five-year period,” he said. “I would just start crying at all times of the day. Sometimes, I would just be on the phone with someone and start crying.”
But in the throes of his grief, Yuri felt compelled to do something that would change his life forever. “I needed to do something,” he said, “something that would get rid of this awful sadness I had.”
Yuri was used to interacting with the homeless on the Los Angeles streets, and he was all too familiar with the feeling that there was little he could do but offer support.
He decided to take action. “I took $3,000 out of the bank,” he said, “and I just started handing it out the window and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. I felt this superpower energy flowing through me, and then I realized that this was a calling.”
Soon after, Yuri was visiting the homeless distributing incredible gifts on a regular basis dressed not as Santa Claus, but as Star Wars fan favorite Kylo Ren.
A little later, he started dressing as his own childhood hero: the Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman. Through the remarkable luck of a raffle drawing, he also found himself with a $6,000 Deadpool costume — which he puts to use in ways that would surely make Ryan Reynolds proud.
Although many of his visited are completely unexpected, he much like his mom strives to build lasting relationships with every person he meets.
“These people are just trying to survive,” said Yuri. “In the cities, every place is the same. The rent is just so high. Back in the 80s, when I was growing up, I felt that everyone looked after each other and loved each other more.”
“These people were our age once, they were kids and brothers and sisters. I’m trying to bring that love back however I can, just talking to these people, building relationships.”
Some of the stories that Yuri has seen in his work have been incredible.
“One lady I knew was working at Jack in the Box and kept all of her paychecks in a shoebox so she could buy a house,” said Yuri.
“What she didn’t know though was that you had to deposit those checks within a year of receiving! I had to explain to her that you have to get checks in the bank. She got lucky, and I was able to see someone get off the street! She’s in Orange County today.”
Another story belongs to Jay, who following a battle with drugs has been homeless on and off for the last 10 years. His Christmas wish, he said, was to have a cell phone to stay in contact with his family.
Deadpool delivered with a cell phone from AT&T, a $50 gift card, and a tin of cookies for good measure!
In addition to his work with the homeless, Yuri has also become well-known for his visits to children and cancer patients in hospitals.
In fact, in 2018 he embarked on a journey across 48 states with the goal of reaching at least 50 disabled or ill children and 50 homeless in each. In September of 2019, with the help of generous GoFundMe donors, he managed to make it to Alaska and Hawaii to complete the tour.
Yuri doesn’t plan to stop there. He has bold plans to continue growing his nonprofit A Future Superhero and Friends and touch as many lives as possible.
“The goal is always to inspire more people, to get people to stop ignoring the homeless, the sick, the elderly. I have eight more years to work, but after that I want to keep growing and doing this. This is what I really want to do.”
The ability to love, to care, to make a difference, it seems, remains the greatest superpower of all.