The world is saturated with news stories about crime, tragedies, corruption, and loss…
Your Everyday Heroes features feel good videos about regular people who strive to make the planet a better place by dedicating their time, energy, and careers to spreading hope to others.
Meet some of our featured heroes, including a volunteer youth boxing teacher, a reverend who preaches in a junkyard, a Broadway composer, and an award-winning photojournalist.
Yecson Preciado – Youth Boxing Instructor
Yecson Preciado was born and raised in Guayaquil, a port city which serves as Ecuador’s commercial capital, but also has the highest poverty rate in the country. He was brought up by a dangerous father who regularly abused him as a child. At ten-years-old, Yecson had enough and chose to run away to live on the dangerous streets, rather than be beaten.
He grew up to become a professional boxer, and fought some of the country’s greatest fighters. He became a local legend, before retiring to dedicate his life to teaching the sport to children.
The decision to train youth boxers came after Yecson witnessed police mass-evict an entire makeshift neighborhood in poverty-stricken Isla Trinitaria. He started Trinibox to give children facing homeless the opportunity to play a sport that could lead to an exceptional future.
“I do this because my students become to be like my sons and daughters. I have a commitment to them, and always, the first thing that has to be the boxing school and my kids,” Yecson remarked. “I don’t want to see any children go through what I lived, nor watching a kid using drugs, or to be killed a tender age.”
Yecson trains his students six days a week, from the early morning to the late afternoon. At night he works 12 hour shifts as a dock security guard from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. to provide for his family and earn the money to keep his boxing gym open.
He hopes that his efforts will help one of his kids reach an international elite level of competition.
“My goal since I started this was to see a student of mine fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada or at the Olympic Games that is my goal,” he said. “I haven’t reached it yet. I am still here at school, moving forward. I will never stop.”
Elsworth Barclay – Junkyard Preacher
Reverend Elsworth Barclay brings the word of God to Chicago’s Star Auto Junk Yard every Sunday at 9:30 a.m., no matter the harsh weather or the lack of a house of worship to hold a church service in.
“The church is not the building, it’s outside, the ministry is outside,” he explained. “You go to the church like the gas station, you fill your car up with gas and it’s not empty. So you come to church and you fill up your spiritual gas tank at the service.”
He came to Chicago in 1944 from Jamaica after preaching for 11 days at sea during WWII. His junkyard service didn’t begin until 1991, when he went to Star Auto to replace his wife’s stolen hubcap. An employee asked him if he would come preach to the workers who did not get Sundays off, and were not able to attend a traditional church.
“You can’t go wrong when you take the word of the book,” the reverend remarked. “Incidentally, there are sixty-six books in the bible. That’s highway 66, that’s God’s roadmap. You can’t go to heaven in a Cadillac car or a Mercedes-Benz. You go through the word of God. These sixty-six books are your road map.”
All are welcome at Reverend Barclay’s Sunday service, and the junkyard serves as a community center for the poor and homeless.
“All life depends on encouraging one another, you’ve got to cooperate,” he detailed. “I have to have an audience, I am a preacher, if that’s my calling, then I need people there.”
Kahil El’Zabar – Composer
Kahil El’Zabar was born Clifton Blackburn, the son of a drummer who first found his rhythm on the instrument at a young age. He quickly mastered multiple different instruments, and began playing with “Art Ensemble of Chicago” as a teenager.
He attended Lake Forest College in the 1970’s and created musical groups Ritual Trio and Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (EHE). He went on to become a jazz musician and composer, and played shows with musical legends Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, and Billy Bang.
He joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and was named the chairman in 1975. He produced numerous albums including EHE’s 1981 debut “Three Gentlemen from Chicago,” Ritual Trio’s “The Ritual” in 1985, and his solo effort, “Transmigration” in 2007.
El’Zabar was named the “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2004, for his accomplishment and service to others. He was subsequently hired to compose the music for Broadway smash hit “The Lion King.” A feature film was produced about his life in 2017.
Gene Pesek – Photojournalist
Sun Times’ photographer Eugen Pesek shot prolific photos of landscapes, natural disasters, politicians, rock stars, and celebrities for the paper for five decades. He credited his father, an architect, for teaching him about lines and how they intersect, with why he was able to thrive as a photographer.
“I see photography no matter where I am. I see pictures no matter where I am. When I look at it, I know what is a good photograph and what isn’t, but I really can’t tell you why.”
He won nearly every national award for his work, other than the Pulitzer Prize, for his stunning work and investigative photojournalism. Over the years, he learned to bend his subjects to his will.
“We used to have a trick with the Chicago politicians, we’d line them up for a group photograph, and the guy you didn’t like, we’d put him at the end and cut him off. We didn’t even photograph him. That was the way it was.”
John Cordwell – Prisoner of War
At 20-years-old, John Cordwell joined the military to fight against the Axis powers in WWII. Prior to being shipped out, he had a premonition that he would not survive his deployment. The self-prophecy was nearly fulfilled when his plane went down on Black Friday in November of 1941.
Cordwell miraculously survived the crash, and was pulled out of the wreckage by the only other survivor. The plane went down behind enemy lines, and the American soldiers were quickly discovered by opposing forces and held captive.
Cordwell’s family was informed that he was dead, while he was really a prisoner of war for years. He suffered the agony and loneliness of being held against his will for three-and-a-half years until the camp was liberated by the Allies on May 7, 1945.
After returning to U.S. soil, Cordwell turned his experience into art, with his “Wartime Log,” which depicted caricatures of the other soldiers he was held with, the events at the camp, and their never-ending quest to escape their captors.
Mark Anderson – Illustrating The Future
Illustrator Mark Anderson creates portraits of the people he believes are making the world’s future brighter.
He worked with CUSP, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s annual conference, which showcases speakers from all over the world who are “designing the future of our planet,” to create a concept that communicates what their life and work is all about. He tries to capture “an essence” of his subject’s energy and spirit to depict what their life’s work is about through his fine art.
Allen and Rosemary – 65 Years of Marriage
Unlike half of the country, when Allen and Rosemary said I do, they made a commitment for life. They met when Allen returned from war and got hitched even though he was jobless and penniless, freshly out of the Army.
Love managed to conquer all when they moved into a tiny room at Rosemary’s mother and started their family. They’re still happily married after 65 years.