Humbled, grateful and proud. Commemorating our 25th anniversary is monumental, and it is a true blessing to have the opportunity to step back and reflect on the journey that has made Kids Unlimited what it is over the past quarter century.

The question I’m constantly asked is: “Did you ever think … (insert one of KU’s countless achievements) would happen?” The answer is always: “Never.”

Since the beginning, I’ve embraced our mission to be a shared journey with those we call our Kids Unlimited family. Over the years, that work has involved thousands of kids and families and the celebration of many “firsts.” Today, it’s incredible to see the generational impact our work has made on transforming our kids, their families and our entire community.

Our story is an unbelievable tale of growth since Kids Unlimited’s inception in 1998 as a grassroots afterschool program with 50 participants. It’s a tale of perseverance and validation of the hope possible when our heroes — volunteers, staff, parents and donors — come together to ensure the Unlimited is possible.

I can’t begin to describe all that the past 25 years of work have meant to me without smiling, laughing and shedding some tears. It’s been inspiring to see what our work could mean to changing the lives of our kids and forever changing the norms of our Southern Oregon community.

There was time early in the evolution of Kids Unlimited that I would ask: “Why here? Why Medford?” The answer was in recognizing our achievements. Watching our kids work hard and effect change inspired the belief that anything was possible, and today those efforts have become institutions.

There has never been a prescribed path for the future, but our foundation has been a commitment to a relationship. That relationship is with a stronger, more resilient, more inclusive community than the one we first encountered 25 years ago. We will continue to listen, learn and evolve to build on our accomplishments, taking the Unlimited to even greater heights.

Plenty of work lies ahead, and we expect to encounter challenges. Change is never easy, but we now know it’s doable and are motivated by our responsibility for empowerment through opportunity.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their stories to our Kids Unlimited Story.

— Tom Cole, founder and CEO

This is your story
More than 40 people, representing diverse aspects of our organization, shared their experiences from 1998 to the present for a special project commemorating KU’s quarter century of youth development. Released at our 25th anniversary fundraising gala, “The Kids Unlimited 25th Anniversary Story” is available as an electronic download for everyone to enjoy. 

Reflections from the past

Participants from Kids Unlimited afterschool programs share their journeys to becoming teachers, firefighters, accountants and more.

Against all odds, Kids Unlimited overcame numerous obstacles within the past 25 years, forever transforming our community.

Chef Ron Duprat

An honored guest at our 25th anniversary celebration, Chef Ron Duprat created a menu that mingled his Haitian roots with our Southern Oregon bounty. The meal was prepared in collaboration with KU food program staff and our culinary students, whose proficiency in the kitchen Chef Duprat praised. KU’s culinary enrichment, Duprat said, is unique among youth programs he’s observed.

Afro-Caribbean flavors with classical French accents distinguish Chef Duprat’s style. He has been a top competitor on Bravo TV and Food Network cooking contests. He has appeared on “The View,” “The Today Show” and “Access Hollywood” and in Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Ebony, Oprah, Essence and other magazines.

Recognized among the most influential Black chefs, Duprat has cooked for Usher, Beyonce and Jay-Z and President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. A contributor to Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, Chef Duprat also is affiliated with No Kid Hungry, World Central Kitchen, Black Culinarian Alliance and other nonprofit causes.

The Royal Cup is a two-man scramble golf tournament hosted by NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. The annual event benefits Kids Unlimited of Oregon, a nonprofit organization providing after-school and summer programs to children in the Rogue Valley.

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