European edition, Sunday, May 27, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The U.S. Air Forces in Europe program that awards participants who get out and about has gained popularity, according to early registration numbers.

Last year, about 2,800 players took part in the Extreme Summer program sponsored by USAFE Services. As of Wednesday, more than 4,850 have signed up for this year’s program, which runs from June 1 to Aug. 31.

“It’s picking up momentum,” said Stephanie Lown, director of RAF Mildenhall’s Bob Hope Community Center.

The annual program runs on a point system in which players can earn credit for a participating in an activity or attending an event. It is not limited to base-sponsored activities: Points can also be earned by taking a trip to an off-base tourist spot as long as players can prove it, for example by producing an admission ticket, Lown said.

Activities that last a day or less are worth 50 points, two days are worth 100 points and three or more days are 150 points. Those who register by Thursday automatically earn 50 points and will be thrown into drawings for trips to the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Germany or $1,000 savings bonds, Lown said.

The more points players earn the better chance they’ll have to be entered into the more exclusive prize drawings in September.

“The goal is to get people out and about rather than sitting at home,” Lown said.

More than $150,000 in prizes, including a 2007 Dodge Caliber and Walt Disney World Resort trips, can be won in drawings and random giveaways as part of the program.

In 2006, players from bases in the United Kingdom racked up four grand prizes that included a Dodge Caliber and vacations to Walt Disney World.

This summer’s celebrity visits include Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald; “Survivor Cook Islands” finalist Becky Lee; space shuttle astronaut William Gregory; and retired Air Force colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Leo Thorsness.

Besides affording families an opportunity to spend time together over the summer, the program gives volunteers the chance to cash in on their donated time at various clubs and organizations.

“This is a way for them to receive some kind of recognition,” Lown said.

There are four categories for participants, based on rank and age. All active-duty servicemembers, civilians and family members with a valid Department of Defense ID card, and children 8 and older are eligible to join. Signup is available all summer.

Check out for details.

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