The U.S. Postal Service hopes to make letter writing an Olympic event this summer.
The agency hopes to entice 500,000 youngsters (half in the United States and half in foreign countries) to join its Olympic Pen Pal Club. Twelve other countries will join the United States in sponsoring the effort.Postal officials hope the club will help establish and foster new and lasting relationships between the participants.
They also hope the letter writing effort will help children develop better writing and communications skills.
"The club offers children an opportunity to promote good will as they exchange information about their diverse cultures," said Deborah K. Bowker, assistant postmaster general for the service's communications department.
Children joining the club will be computer matched, according to age and gender, with names of children submitted by participating postal administrations in other countries.
In addition to the name and address of their new pen pal, children will receive special stationery, a note pad, a calendar, a membership card and badge, and a how-to booklet to help children construct their letters.
A special quarterly newsletter featuring stories about pen pals, athletes training for the Olympics, stamps and other Olympics-related information will also be sent to club members.
Club membership ads are currently appearing in such publications as USA Weekend, Parade, 3-2-1 Contact, SI for Kids and Disney Adventure.
The membership fee is $9.95 The other participating countries are Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Singapore.