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Odell Beckham Jr. visit creates stir at Kids Unlimited

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Star NFL receiver makes surprise stop as part of local business venture

Known for being a world-class receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. proved Monday that he is just as good at giving.

The two-time NFL All-Pro wide receiver paid a surprise visit to Kids Unlimited here in Medford to learn more about the organization from CEO and founder Tom Cole in what is a business venture for Beckham as a byproduct of his work with Royal Coffee Roasting.

Along the way, Beckham also supplied some wide-eyed moments for students and staffers at the Kids Unlimited Academy, as well as members of Cole’s South Medford High girls basketball team and participants at a South Medford football camp being held on site.

“I’m just speechless,” Toni Coleman said excitedly after posing for a photo with Beckham and her Panther teammates. “I really do not even know what to do right now. I’m like freaking out.”

She was not alone.

Fellow recent South Medford graduate Bella Stone could only shake her head with a broad smile as the words “that was crazy” and “cool dude” and “big-time NFL guy with THE catch” trickled out in succession.

“That was super exciting to meet him,” added Kaili Chamberlin. “It feels so good but I’m literally speechless. It’s more than we hoped it would be.”

Making it all happen was Eagle Point’s Jason Hanlin, who is chief marketing officer for Royal Coffee Roasting and has known Cole for more than two decades, including service on the Kids Unlimited board of directors.

Hanlin struck up a friendship with Beckham about four years ago and the two found a common passion in the coffee industry, creating a journey that has resulted in Royal Coffee Roasting stores in Las Vegas, Utah, Boise, Idaho, and here in Southern Oregon.

“He wanted to get into coffee because he has a passion for it and I have a background in coffee so we partnered with our friend’s company and here we are,” said Hanlin, who previously enjoyed working for Dutch Bros. Coffee and decided to branch out in other enterprises before honing in with RCR.

“Odell is passionate about kids, sports, art … all the things you see here at Kids Unlimited,” added Hanlin. “The slogan here is ‘Empowerment Through Opportunity’ and I feel like it’s just really on brand for everything we believe. For every pound of coffee we roast, we donate a meal back to Kids Unlimited. In the last year we donated 39,000 meals to a non-profit organization and we ended up pivoting to Kids Unlimited because they really focus on kids and that’s Odell’s passion. I’ve been part of Kids Unlimited for over a decade so it just felt like a natural fit.”

While it may seem like someone with Beckham’s national acclaim and megastar status wouldn’t find a natural fit in the small-town Medford scene, Monday proved exactly the opposite.

The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and three-time Pro Bowl selection graciously shook hands, posed for photos, signed autographs and went out of his way to interact with all on hand as he toured Kids Unlimited.

“He wanted to make sure what he was getting behind was as good as being shared with him,” said Cole. “He wanted to see the charity and see the food program and know about it all first-hand. It’s really cool that they chose Kids Unlimited, and Odell is obviously a big name, so it’s a cool association for us all.”

Through his rise to NFL prominence after starring at Louisiana State University, Beckham has raised money and awareness from feeding the hungry, cancer research and flood relief to his affiliation with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

He also has regularly dropped in at youth camps to show his support and provide a positive message, as he did Monday in group settings as well as one-on-one moments with the younger kids at Kids Unlimited.

“I feel like for me, everything is about legacy,” said the 28-year-old Louisiana native. “Helping kids has always been important to me. I’m a big kid at heart so I’ve always been attached to children in a sense and I feel like what they’re doing over here (at Kids Unlimited) is very, very special. Kids don’t really have the ability to defend themselves coming up and who all is surrounding them at a young age is how they’re going to turn out, so to see what they’re doing here is beautiful.”

Beckham told a story of how he remembers at a young age making his mother pull over on the highway one time to give a homeless man $20, and it’s that spirit that continues to drive him to make a difference wherever he can.

“Whatever it is to make this world a better place, I feel like it’s all our duty and obligation and we have to fulfill that,” said Beckham, who serves as chief brand officer in his venture with Royal Coffee Roasting. “It’s just been engraved in me from the way I was raised. You want nothing but the best for this world. You want to see change and you want to see good things, so this is such a special opportunity.”

The No. 12 overall pick by the New York Giants in 2014, Beckham joined Cleveland in 2019 but saw his 2020 campaign cut short after suffering a torn ACL. He has 487 career receptions for 6,830 yards and 51 touchdowns, including a one-handed effort in a Sunday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys while playing with New York in his first season that caused a national stir for its effortless majesty.

Beckham’s one-handed masterpiece, mind you, may be the most famous but South Medford football coach Bill Singler couldn’t help but remind Beckham and the Panther campers of his own one-handed catch while playing for Stanford in 1974 against Penn State in Beaver Stadium.

“Before there was Odell, there was Bill,” Singler proudly proclaimed with a laugh of his second-quarter post corner route from the 22-yard line.

While that may have been the most jovial moment of the day, Beckham’s biggest impact during his visit likely fell to moments where he humbly spoke with grade-schoolers about their lives and softly lent support.

One of those children was 9-year-old Kashaun Coleman, who initially thought he may have been in trouble when whisked away by Cole, Beckham and an entourage of followers toward the school’s “vibes” room, where students go to take a moment and refocus their energies toward positive results.

It was there that Beckham spoke from the heart to Coleman — hand-picked to receive an autographed jersey and certainly not in trouble — about making sure to keep his grades up and not let anything get in the way of a positive attitude each day.

“It was a cool experience to meet an NFL football player,” said a grateful Coleman, understandably caught up in the whirlwind of the moment. “I never thought I would meet one.

“He told me to keep your grades up and be better in school.”

And that’s exactly what a grinning Coleman said he was going to do as he shuffled off with renewed energy, treasure in hand and an unbelievable story to tell.

Have a local story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

NFL star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns takes photos with young athletes at a South Medford football camp held at Kids Unlimited in downtown Medford Monday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (left) listens to a story from South Medford High football coach Bill Singler about making a Beckham-like catch in his college days at Kids Unlimited on Monday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Recent South Medford High graduate Kaili Chamberlin introduces herself to NFL star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during a surprise get-together with the South Medford girls basketball team at Kids Unlimited in downtown Medford Monday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns takes photos with the South Medford girls basketball team at Kids Unlimited in downtown Medford Monday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns takes a photo with young athletes on hand for a South Medford football camp at Kids Unlimited in downtown Medford Monday. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune