By Michele Vowell

New Era Staff Writer

Grab your partner or team and put on your thinking caps for the Literacy Letterboxing Challenge, an intriguing outdoor scavenger hunt using navigational skills, deductive reasoning, math and reading.

During the month of June, the Christian County Literacy Council presents this family-friendly fundraising event for the fourth year. The event replaced the organization's Ready Reader Road Challenge. All proceeds from the Letterboxing Challenge will support the council's early childhood and family literacy programs.

"Letterboxing actually is historical. It's a game that has gone on for 150 years," said Beth Roberts, literacy council member and letterboxer. "The current version of it is geocaching, where you use the satellites or the GPS or cell phones. Geocaching was based on letterboxing."

To play the Letterboxing Challenge, teams of at least two individuals purchase a packet for a non-refundable entry fee of $25 and register for the event. Packets are available by contacting LIteracy Council member Beverly Whitfield at 270-962-7114 or 270-886-8308 or emailing beverly@cclitcouncil.org or at Books on Main, corner of Ninth and Virginia streets, 270-707-0040. The bookstore hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Inside the packets, "you get an envelope with 10 clues in it. Each clue is about a location somewhere in Hopkinsville or out in the county somewhere," Roberts said. "(Locations) vary from year to year, but there's always been 10. They are always outdoors so you can play the game at midnight if you want to."

This year the sites on the challenge are community service organizations in Hopkinsville and Christian County.

"We've had wonderful success in the past with the interest that people have developed just to find these sites to go around the county, the community to discover the wonderful things about Christian County," Whitfield said. "We have done this for the past four years, meaning we've had 40 sites or locales that we've featured and have not had to repeat any of these."

Participants also receive a passport in their packet with the rules printed on it and 10 numbered spaces, representing the publicly-accessible locations. Letterboxers follow the clues to find the small, weatherproof containers with self-inking stamps inside.

"When you follow your

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directions, find the little container, take out the stamp and stamp the passport," Roberts said. "Repeat that for the other nine (locations)."

Roberts said the game is not only fun but educational.

"You can learn about places in the community who wouldn't have known about otherwise," she said. "Hopefully, people will be interested in getting involved with (these organizations) or supporting. There's a lot of good going on with these organizations."

The game starts June 1 and continues through June 28.

"People can do it all month long, all in one day, break it up over several days," Roberts said. "It gives a little more flexibility to how someone wants to play the game."

Once the passport is filled out, teams must return it to the Literacy Council office on the second floor of the historic Christian County Courthouse, 511 S. Main St., no later than noon June 28.

The grand finale will be at 4 p.m. June 28. Teams with correctly completed passports are placed in a drawing for cash prizes of $300, $200 and $100. Roberts said participating children may also receive special prizes.

"Every year, every child who has been there has gotten something," Roberts said. "It's fun to show up. You get a snack, you get some cash and, in the process, you help the Literacy Council raise money for their projects."

Also, as part of the Letterboxing Challenge, the literacy council is seeking corporate sponsors. The game offers three levels of sponsorships from $100 to $500. Each business who becomes a sponsor will be listed in the Letterboxing brochure. They also receive sponsorships of up to three teams or they give the literacy council permission to find teams from local youth organizations or church youth groups.

"This is our major fundraiser. We've had wonderful cooperation from corporate sponsors," Whitfield said. "Every year we want to do a little bit better. Last year we raised close to $8,000. We would like to improve on that this year."

Businesses interested in being Letterboxing Challenge corporate sponsors should contact the Literacy Council for more information.

This year the Literacy Council is dedicating the challenge to former Christian County Attorney Mike Foster, an education advocate.

"He has been our legal adviser all these years," Roberts said. "We are dedicating this to him in honor of all the service he's given us."

Whitfield said the Letterboxing Challenge is a fun, educational event for the community.

"The whole idea, other than being a wonderful fundraiser, is educating young people about Christian County and the history of our county and the opportunities in which they can serve," she said. "As such, we have many families gathering with their children or adult friends do this (event)."

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or mvowell@kentuckynewera.com.

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