Online Treasure Hunt Does Triple Duty

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2007 - A nonprofit group is using a treasure hunt to get people interested in helping military families.

"We hope treasure hunters, individuals and corporations will generously donate to the scholarship fund for the families of our brave men and women in uniform who protect our freedoms each and every day," said Gayle Osterberg, a spokeswoman for the group, ThanksUSA. "More than 1,300 scholarships have been awarded to the kids and spouses of active-duty military personnel in all branches of the service, ... including those in the Guard and reserves."

ThanksUSA is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Last year, the hunt's theme focused on the "Pillars of Democracy." This year it's "Treasure our Troops," a truly appropriate theme considering the organization works to provide need-based educational scholarships to military spouses and children.

"(It's) once again based on state history, but this year we also included the history about two military branches; the Coast Guard and the Navy," Osterberg said. "The ThanksUSA American history online treasure hunt excites Americans of all ages to learn about America's history, culture and values, which the troops defend each and every day, while also raising donations for scholarships for the families of the troops.

"This is an educational double play which says thank you to the men and women in uniform serving our country," she added.

The hunt is open to anyone, though players must register at the ThanksUSA Web site. One winner per chapter will be randomly selected from the pool of participants who answered all the chapter questions correctly.

The drawings through May, however, will be for schools and youth groups only. After that, it's anyone's game, and the prizes should be incentive to play, Osterberg said.

"(Prizes) include bookstore gift certificates, iPods, and computers," she said, adding that the grand prize will be on announced Memorial Day. "The grand prize in the previous two years has included a treasure chest abounding with jewels and precious metals, ... but you'll have to wait until Memorial Day to find out what the grand prize will be for Treasure Hunt Three."

The treasure hunt, which includes more than 300 questions, will conclude on Aug. 15, and is free to play.

Scholarships the group has awarded to date total nearly $4 million for post-secondary educational pursuits. The organization plans another round of awards this year, Osterberg said.

ThanksUSA was created in 2005 when Rachel Okun and her sister, Kelsi, were just 10 and 8, respectively. Looking for a way to thank the troops, they were inspired by a book they'd read on summer vacation, Michael Stadther's "A Treasure's Trove," which revealed clues to real "treasure" hidden around the country.

The online treasure hunt is the result of the girls' combining their interest in treasure hunts with a desire to thank the troops.

"The spirit of ThanksUSA is to thank the troops who defend our freedoms by awarding scholarships to their families," the girls said. "The gift of education is the best way we know how to say, 'Thank you.'"

*Related Sites:*
Thanks USA  [ ]
Online Treasure Hunt Does Triple Duty [ ]