A soccer tournament hosted this past weekend by KidsPeace went off without a hitch even after one local youth soccer team pulled out of the event due to the organization's housing of immigrant children.
The OutKasts, a Lehighton youth soccer team, were scheduled to participate in the 17th annual KidsPeace Soccer Invitational held over the weekend at the Orchard Hills campus in Orefield, Northern Whitehall Township.
The team, a participant in last year's tournament, opted not to participate in the tournament after it learned KidsPeace houses immigrant children.
Chris Geiser, coach of the OutKasts and president of the Carbon United Soccer Club of Lehighton, cited concerns over whether the immigrant children have been vaccinated, as well as potential protests, among other reasons for concern.
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.
"The tournament was great, it went off without any problems," said Bevin Theodore, director of public relations and communications, KidsPeace."We had two other teams from the Carbon United (Soccer) Club play. One actually won their bracket."
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 was held.
Another concern expressed by the OutKasts was the $450 entry fee to participate in the charity benefit, which it had hoped to be refunded for not participating in the event.
But KidsPeace doesn't give refunds, Theodore said.
About 60 teams took part in the tournament, which was sanctioned by the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association.
The event also included free activities such as face-painting, a moon bounce and various vendors selling products to support KidsPeace.
"We had a lot of positive feedback from coaches," Theodore said. "The tournament, kids are usually glad to be a part of."
The tournament raises funds to help fund a KidsPeace website, www.teencentral.net, which provides free anonymous online counseling for teens and preteens with mental or emotional problems.
See a photo from the tournament in our sports section on page 13.