A Lehighton youth soccer team has pulled out of a tournament to be hosted by KidsPeace this weekend due to the organization's housing of immigrant children.
The OutKasts youth soccer team was scheduled to partake in the 17th annual KidsPeace Soccer Invitational on Saturday and Sunday at the Orchard Hills campus in Orefield, North Whitehall Township.
A participant in last year's tournament, the team opted not to participate in this year's program after it learned KidsPeace houses immigrant children, according to Chris Geiser, coach of the OutKasts and president of the Carbon United Soccer Club of Lehighton.
Geiser said the soccer club also had concerns over whether the immigrant children have been vaccinated, as well as potential protests.
"If you're going to invite illegal aliens to stay on your premises, there's going to be demonstrations," Geiser said.
"I asked why all the soccer clubs weren't notified of the possible dangers that could happen that day; there's going to be young children that I don't think should be subjected to it."
Geiser added, "I felt they weren't looking out for the well-being of our local children. We just want to make the right decisions for our children."
Bevin Theodore, director of public relations and communications, KidsPeace, said the federal program, run by the office of Refugee Resettlement, places unaccompanied minors in places where they can receive sheltered care and medical care until they can be reunited with their families.
Theodore said the refugee children, primarily from Central America, are housed at the organization's Broadway campus in Bethlehem, which is 15 miles away from the Orchard Hills campus where the tournament will be held.
"They were concerned there might be some sort of protest; we had that protest at our Bethlehem campus (last month)," Theodore said.
"We have not had any protests on our Orchard Hills campus, and we don't have any reason to believe there is any reason to protest, be it political or otherwise."
About 60 teams are expected to take part in this year's tournament, which is sanctioned by the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association.
The event will also include free activities such as face-painting, a moon bounce and various vendors selling products to support KidsPeace.
"(The OutKasts) were the only team that pulled out," she said. "We actually have other teams from the same soccer club that are still playing."
Another sticking point with the team is the $450 entry fee to participate in the charity benefit, Theodore said.
"One coach and one parent (from the OutKasts) had initially called for a refund," she said. "We don't give refunds."
Geiser said he was aware KidsPeace has a no-refund policy.
"If we knew this up front, we would have never entered the tournament," she said.
"We're looking out for the well-being of our children."
The tournament raises funds to help fund a KidsPeace website, www.teencentral.net.
The website provides free anonymous online counseling for teens and preteens with mental or emotional problems.