JENKINS TWP. – The Jenkins Township Lions Club Fields were a place to meet and have fun July 19.
They were also a place for questions to be answered, if necessary.
The Greater Pittston Stoners Youth Soccer Organization held a Kickoff Fun Day to get ready for the 2015 fall season, seeking a fresh start after a difficult end to 2014.
“Anyone who had any questions about the state of the Greater Pittston Stoners right now, based on the response today from the parents, coaches, players, we have already advanced 20 steps from where we were,” said Bill Wolfe, who took over as president in the leadership reorganization following allegations of financial irregularities.
In March, an Exeter couple turned themselves in to authorities on allegations they took more than $44,000 from the youth soccer club.
Kathryn Koch, 36, was the president of the Greater Pittston Stoners Soccer Organization, while Edward Koch, 35, was the treasurer.
Edward Koch was charged with taking $41,219 from the soccer organization from November 2013 through December 2014. His wife was charged with taking $3,653.
Both also were charged with forgery and the solicitation of funds for charitable purposes.
When news of the alleged thefts was released, a public rebuilding campaign began.
“It’s been amazing,” said Wolfe. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s paid off just in this day alone.”
As Wolfe talked July 19, young soccer players ran around on the various-sized fields getting in early, informal soccer fun time on one of the hottest days of the summer. Others were in the bounce house, at the dunk tank, listening to music or taking part in other activities meant to get the new season off to a fun start.
Officially, the day served as a registration and organizational day for upcoming league play.
Close to 50 volunteers made sure that was just a small part of the activities.
“Of the 580 kids we have, we’ve probably seen 500 of them come through here and they’ve all taken a turn at everything,” Wolfe said late in the day.
The 49 teams across eight age groups were split into four arrival times. In each session, players picked up their uniforms, met their coaches and listened, along with their parents, to announcements about what was ahead this season. They were then encouraged to stop at each of the entertainment stations and spend as much time as they chose on the grounds.
“The Pittston Area girls soccer team came and did an obstacle course with the kids throughout the day,” Wolfe said. “They did a bunch of different skills challenges.”
Wolfe said registration for the organization is only down “about 10 percent,” which is in line with a drop off around the Wyoming Valley, and considering what the Stoners have been through, a positive sign.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “It made the past month’s worth of planning worth it.
“It exceeded our expectations.”
Registration closed prior to the day, which was used as a celebration, rather than a recruiting effort, according to Wolfe.
“It was 100 percent about celebration of all the kids,” Wolfe said. “They got uniforms, every kid got a gift from the league. They all got long sleeve T-shirts that we purchased for them. Some of the older age groups got backpacks as well.”
Wolfe said it was also helpful to have players and families meet the coaches before the first practices and games.
The largest groups are on the youngest levels with about 160 players signed up for Under-6 and Under-7 divisions. The 5-year-olds (U-6) play co-ed soccer before splitting up by gender for the first time when they are 6.