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President Obama surprises Chicago youth football team, drops in on small business owners’ meeting


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    CHICAGO (WLS) — Former President Barack Obama made a pair of surprise appearances on Chicago’s South Side Tuesday afternoon.

“I told you I was coming by, coach! You didn’t believe me!” Obama said, laughing.

The former president took a break during his day trip to his adopted hometown for a huddle with the Chicago Southside Wolfpack, a youth football team that practices in Jackson Park, near the site of presidential center.

“To come here and stand in front of our kids and talk to them, he gave them hope,” Coach Ernest Radcliffe said.

The spot the teens circled around and spoke with the former president on in Jackson Park will one day be part of the Obama Presidential Center.

“That was one of the biggest things that we said, is that, we said we needed this because we call this our sanctuary, and we have to have this field,” Radcliffe said.

The team of coaches worked closely with the Obama Foundation to find a new home just a few blocks away.

“They’ve been on board since day one,” said Coach Rynell Morgan.

After a youth pep talk on the field, Obama made the short trip to South Shore, just a block from where he married the former First Lady. The former president again pulled off a surprise, this time with a group of community business owners.

Inside a South Shore coffee shop, a few South Side business owners had circled up with some of the Obama Foundation’s advisors. So, he came to listen.

“We want to make sure that the Obama Presidential Center does not operate in a silo and at the center supports local businesses in the community and the community at large,” said Tonya Rice, executive director, South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Before the massive presidential library is slated to break ground later this year, business owners want to be sure they’ll be able to make the most of an unprecedented opportunity.

“How do you benefit from folks coming in from downtown, folks coming in who would never have come to the South Side? How maybe businesses who had never seen North Siders or international customers can now reap the benefits of it,” said Eric Williams, owner, The Silver Room.

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