Mitch Williams is the winner of the Vic Sereno Contribution to Youth Award, presented each year to a volunteer who has given unselfishly to serve youth at the YMCA.

Mitch Williams is the winner of the Vic Sereno Contribution to Youth Award, presented each year to a volunteer who has given unselfishly to serve youth at the YMCA.


Williams has given his time and energy to youth in the Canton community for over 25 years, helping them learn the martial art of Judo, and apply it both physically and mentally.


“Mitch has been giving unselfishly of his time and talents leading our Judo program here at the Y for as long as I can remember. He’s an exceptional volunteer who has made a huge impact on the lives of countless youth through his many, many years of dedicated service both to the Y and our community,” said Paula Grigsby, Executive Director.


Over the years, he has helped hundreds of youth through the Judo program at the YMCA in a completely volunteer basis. Through the program, he not only teaches the skills and physical movements of Judo, he teaches them the philosophy. This philosophy is based on achieving maximum efficiency, learning to do the most you can with the smallest amount of effort. He teaches students self-evaluation, balance, focus and how to help one another improve. He teaches them to apply these principles to their physical movements, but also to use them in personal life.


“I hope to give kids a sense of discipline, and help kids to focus in a day and age when social media and technology are constant distractions. I enjoy seeing a kid come to class, awkward and shy, and see them come out of their shell and develop as a person. It’s amazing.” Williams said.


Lou Hecox, who has worked with Mitch for over 10 years in the Judo program, said “With Mitch, the biggest thing is that everyone really has a chance to excel and succeed---it’s not just the fastest, the strongest or the tallest. Everything he does is oriented towards them learning the proper technique. He is very patient, takes a long-term approach, and teaches youth to compete based on skill.”


When Williams was a young man, Judo made a big difference in his life. He began taking Judo through a YMCA scholarship as a youth himself. He learned from local Judo founders Bill Hurt, Bill Waldorf and George Weers. Judo helped him develop physical coordination and teaching skills. He progressed through the ranks, becoming a black belt and winning the title Illinois State Champion. He had aspirations to make the US Olympic Judo team, training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs twice.


He now holds a fourth degree black belt, and chooses to teach and learn from students in our community. He has helped several of his students reach the level of black belt and compete at high-level international tournaments over the years. He says he still has a passion for developing his own skills, and learns a great deal from teaching. According to Williams, both students and teachers benefit from the Judo program.


At one point in Williams’s life, he came to a crossroads when he had to choose Judo full-time or his other passion, magic. He chose magic, and has made that his career, also inspiring children and young adults through this craft for over 30 years. He has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan to perform magic. He appears on a monthly spot on the WEEK morning show, performing a trick or two for local television audiences.


Williams volunteers as a member of the Canton Rotary Club, helping with youth foreign exchange students and even introducing them to the art of Judo. He helped develop the free Little Libraries, promoting literacy to all ages throughout the community. He is also a published author himself.


Williams has a wife, Katherine, and two sisters, Lisa Taylor and Tracy Link. His parents are Linda and Merle Williams of Farmington. He continues to inspire youth through his passions for Judo and magic, helping them develop to their fullest potential.