The East River Soccer Complex felt like an appropriate setting for the World Sauna Championships on Saturday. But that did not prevent 500 area youth soccer players from participating in the third annual Jonathan Powell Hope Foundation Kids Kicking Cancer soccer tournament.

“We’ve had a great start to our tournament today and the weather’s been great,” said Jonathan’s Hope treasurer Tim Powell. “We’ve had a good turnout and it’s definitely, definitely going to be another successful tournament.”

“We’re very pleased with the turnout and it looks like we have a lot of good donations coming in,” said tournament co-chair and director Jacinda Smith.

On Saturday between gate collections and player contributions, the foundation raised around $7,300 and added another $1,500 through concessions. They have also banked $12,000 in corporate sponsorships.

But raising that money has not been easy. The most difficult thing Smith has had to do is coordinate everything and everyone.

“It’s over 500 kids to schedule and organize,” Smith said. “So just the scope of the project has been the most difficult thing.

“We have kids from 5 years old up to 12 years old, many different teams per age group and they all have to be scheduled and checked in and you, of course, have to schedule refs and organization up front.”

Slightly complicating the scheduling process are the presence of teams from Richlands and Hillsville, Va., a first for the tournament.

“We’re excited to have them here and hope that that’s something that we can continue to grow with each year,” Smith said. “For us from the Jonathan Powell Hope Foundation, we’re just glad to get to let other folks outside of our immediate area learn about our foundation and the work that we do.

“And I think for East River soccer, it’s great for other folks to come here and see this wonderful facility that we have here that a lot of people are not fortunate enough to have such a nice facility.”

Smith does not mind doing the work. She has known Powell for decades.

“Tim Powell and I went to school together back in high school,” Smith said. “I just got to be friendly again as adults with him and his wife Melissa and I have a daughter that’s the same age as their daughter, Mary, and they’re in school together ....”

Together, they will continue to work on this as well as future tournaments and other fund raisers.

“We continue to have an increased number of families requesting assistance,” Smith said. “So we’re looking for new ways to raise funds as well as to try to raise more funds each year we do an event like this one.”

One of those new fund raisers will be held on Aug. 8 at Hunnicutt Field as part of the Princeton Rays’ game against the Bluefield Orioles. Advance tickets are on sale this weekend.

“We have a Jonathan Powell Hope Foundation night at the Devil Rays and we will receive half of the ticket proceeds for that event,” Smith said. “So we’re excited to have that coming up in August.”

As for the tournament itself, Smith and Powell want to continue growing and expanding the event, giving more kids a chance to strike a free kick against childhood cancer.

“We hope it’ll continue to go on,” Smith said. “East River is very encouraging and has really worked with us. This is our third annual and I hope this will be something that continues to go on as long as East River Soccer’s in place.”

“I think it not only makes people in the community aware of the need for assistance to the families that are fighting childhood cancer,” Powell said. “The kids, it gives a chance to instill in them that it’s important to help charities and to be charitable. It gives them that start so as they grow up they’ll be giving adults and charitable members of the community.”

The Jonathan Powell Hope Foundation Kids Kicking Cancer soccer tournament concludes today at the East River Soccer Complex.

— Contact Jed Lockett


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