‘Super Ewan’ helps the homeless in Detroit

The New Haven resident started embarking on Super Adventures at age 7 to give out food, clothing and supplies

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Detroit — Thanks to a 10-year-old boy dressed in a bright red cape, Jemel William doesn’t always have to walk an hour to a soup kitchen for something to eat.

Clutching a plastic bag full of donated clothes and hygiene products in one hand and two hot dogs wrapped in tin foil in the other last month, the 30-year-old Detroiter was all smiles as he loaded up on food and supplies in Corktown’s Roosevelt Park.

“I wish I could have had that potential at that age,” said William, nodding at the boy, Ewan Drum, better known as “Super Ewan,” who was grilling hot dogs for more than 100 homeless people in the park that Saturday afternoon.

Some kids would rather spend weekends playing sports or watching TV. Ewan would rather hand out donated coats and meat he’s received.

“When me and my family drive down here to either keep helping people or eat or do anything,” he said. “I look at everyone who doesn’t have food or a place to live, and I just really want to help them.”

Nearly three years earlier, the young New Haven resident started organizing Super Adventures to help the homeless in Detroit. He’s since attracted a corp of Super Volunteers from Metro Detroit and has helped thousands of people, according to his mother, Angela Drum.

On Sunday, Ewan was one of 102 youths from across the nation honored at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Washington, D.C. His all-expense-paid trip came with a silver medallion, a chance to meet Olympic great Michael Phelps and $1,000 prize. He was also in the running for an additional $5,000 prize awarded to 10 youth honorees on Monday.

Ewan said he’d use the money to “help more people” and maybe spend a little on video games. His latest honor follows his two President’s Volunteer Service Awards.

‘Something good’

At first, William was skeptical of the then-7-year-old and his family, who pass out bagged lunches in the park across from Michigan Central Station. He said they’d often ask if he wanted something to eat.

“I was kinda, like, shying against it because they don’t know what I’m going through and all, but eventually they became like family to me,” William said.

That Saturday last month, the superhero family, wearing matching jackets with Superman-like “SE” logos, saved the day by saving William a trek across town in the cold, blustery wind.

“Whoever pushed him and encouraged him,” he said, “I mean, I really feel this is something good.”

Yet nobody pushed him. In fact, this was all Ewan’s idea.

“He came to us when he was 7, and he said, ‘When I’m a teenager, can I dress up like a superhero and help the homeless? I want to take them food and clothes and DVD players,’ ” said Angela Drum, 40.

“I don’t think we’ve given out any DVD players yet. But we said, ‘You don’t have to wait until you’re a teenager. We can go now.’ ”

The family packed 50 sack lunches and bottled water and drove 45 minutes to Detroit to give out food from their silver minivan. On subsequent trips, they anchored at Roosevelt Park with food and supplies and now hold adventures every fourth Saturday of the month.

“As long as people are showing up and need help, we’ll keep coming down,” Drum said.

James Drum, 41, a media technician at Macomb Township’s government access Channel 5, helps manage his son’s website and the Super Ewan Inc. nonprofit established in 2014. He said Ewan drives their efforts, and he’s become a model for his siblings Josephine, 6, and Crosby, 3, who often assist on his adventures.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “When he approached us and asked (to help the homeless), we both kind of cried a little bit, to be honest, and it just goes to show that you don’t have to be any certain age to want to help people.”

New Haven Elementary School principal Robert McCabe nominated Ewan for the Prudential award, and said Ewan’s caring for others has rubbed off on students and staff. Through a school book drive he sponsored and a food collection for families during the holidays, he’s inspired his peers to give back.

“He very often puts others before himself, which I think is a tremendous thing to be able to do for a fifth-grader, and I just hope that he continues to do what he’s doing and affect the lives that he’s affecting,” McCabe said.

Ewan was featured in “Look to the Sky,” a documentary released last month that tells the story of 10 youths ages 5-18 who exhibit the superhero qualities of “Superman.” Director Brett Culp spent a few days in Detroit documenting Super Ewan’s adventures and said Ewan sees “the possibility in others.”

“With every one of his adventures to help others, he wears a smile, a superhero cape and a contagious hope,” Culp said. “... His determination and commitment have inspired other people to engage with the community and make a difference.”

‘In this together’

In the beginning, the Drums spent their own money to buy the food they passed out. Now, Ewan receives nearly all food and items through donations solicited on his website.

During the past two Thanksgivings, Ewan handed out 170 donated turkeys in Detroit neighborhoods. He also organizes an event called Hope for the Holidays, where Santa gives presents to children and parents receive clothes.

Last year, Chuck Speckman, owner of Jillian’s Coney Island & Grille in Chesterfield Township, donated the meal for the event.

Speckman met the Drums at the restaurant he opened in 2013. Once he learned of Ewan’s efforts to feed the homeless, he wanted to help.

“That kid would be out there in the freezing rain. He’d never let those families down, ever,” he said. “It’s just really moving.”

The Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit-based agency that provides food and housing, said Ewan is a good example of a child who reminds others “what’s good about humanity.”

“Sometimes we become jaded after awhile to people and their situations,” she said, “and yet a child understands just how vulnerable it would be not to have a house or not to have food or not to have clean clothing.”

Fowler said other children have started lemonade stands to raise money for Detroit’s homeless, or encourage their families to volunteer at soup kitchens.

“(These kids) remind us that we’re all in this together, and we should look out for each other in a wonderfully loving way,” she said.

Russell Reid arrived on his green bike at Roosevelt Park last month.

“I’ve been coming here for as long as they’ve been here,” said Reid, 57, adding he’s not homeless but doesn’t have an income. “So I get a lot of food from places like this and churches.”

In the warmer months, the Drums set out lawn games, and Ewan brings his baseball glove to play catch with those who show up.

“It’s important to us that we not just feed them and clothe them,” Angela Drum said. “We want them to know that they’re loved and important.”

Dearborn Heights resident Bernadette White became a Super Volunteer after seeing Ewan on a newscast. The 47-year-old started in February, when she said it was so cold, few people came to the park. So they all hopped in their cars and drove around Detroit, bringing food to those on the street.

“He’s putting himself in other people’s shoes,” she said. “How else would he have the heart to want to help them?”


(313) 222-2156

“Look to the Sky” Screening

7 p.m. June 12

MJR Chesterfield Crossing Digital Cinema 16

50675 Gratiot, Chesterfield

Buy tickets for $12 at tugg.com/events/look-to-the-sky-g0_v

A question-and-answer session with Super Ewan will follow.