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This is the eighth court in East County, giving kids a safe place to play outdoors

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The new futsal pitch at Wilkes Elementary School supports a game right after its official opening on Tuesday, Oct. 23. East Multnomah County's eighth futsal pitch officially opened amid much fanfare at Wilkes Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 23, under sunny skies.

Pint-sized folkloric dancers expertly performed, a few short speeches were delivered and children and local dignitaries lined up for a ceremonial first kick.

After that, futsal players from Wilkes and Highland elementary took the pitch and played to cheers from the crowd.

Danna Diaz, superintendent of Reynolds School District, thanked the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which funded the new futsal pitch.

"They helped create this environment for children to play and learn skills," she said.

Wilkes Principal Sarah Shields noted that "soccer is universal and brings us all together."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Some of the visiting Highland Elementary School Huskies stretch before their exhibition game against the Wilkes Wildcats at the opening of the new futsal pitch. The futsal court at 17010 N.E. Wilkes Road, went in at the new elementary school that opened to students this fall. The pitch is next to the colorful new playground.

Futsal is similar to soccer, but played on a much smaller court with teams of five players on each side. The smaller court is suitable for places where space is at a premium.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Wilkes students performed a folkloric dance to celebrate the opening of the new futsal court, the eighth one in East Multnomah County. Ricki Ruiz, a major force in bringing the eight futsal pitches to East Multnomah County and a member of the Reynolds School Board, said it is important "to provide a place for kids to come and play at no cost, with no risk and no worries for our families."

The U.S. Soccer Foundation has installed 410 futsal pitches across the country and plans to build 1,000 by 2026.

"We believe families and kids should have safe, high-quality, state-of-the-art places to play," said Darcy Levit, the foundation's senior major gifts officer.

The foundation vows to make soccer "everyone's game by filling after-school hours with quality soccer programming led by trained coach-mentors and providing safe places for children to play in neighborhoods where they live and go to school."OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - To mark the opening of the futsal pitch, Reynolds School District Superintendent Danna Diaz snaps a selfie with Ricki Ruiz, a school board member, and Valerie Tewksbury, chairwoman of the school board.

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