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22 days of virtual events planned in countdown to April 22 observance

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division has taken virtual-event planning to the next level, expanding its traditionally single-day Earth Day celebration into a 22-day virtual challenge filled with 10 different online activities.

The Earth Day Challenge kicks off April 1 and will continue until Earth Day, April 22, when the winners of all 10 challenges will be announced.

The events have been months in the making, with organizers designing events to be both educational and fun while also keeping contestants in compliance with all COVID-19 mitigation efforts, according to Environmental Division Chief Charlie Neel

“Our challenge was to figure out a way to celebrate Earth Day, raise awareness, get people involved and get people outdoors — all while maintaining social distancing and meeting other COVID-19 constraints,” Neel said.

The challenges

Each challenge is free to enter and open to all ages. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in each challenge, including free canoe rentals from the Outdoor Adventure Center for first-place winners, portable coolers for second-place finishers and commemorative glass spheres for third-place contestants.

The challenges include the following:

— The Plastic-Free Challenge asks participants to share creative solutions for going plastic-free by submitting photos or short descriptions of their ideas with the Environmental Division by April 21.

“I’m curious and looking forward to seeing the creative solutions people come up with,” said Sabrina Wilfong, an Environmental Protection assistant who is running the challenge.

Submissions can be sent to Wilfong by email at sabrina.a.wilfong.civ@mail.mil or by calling 573.596.3880.

— The BioBlitz Challenge is essentially a scientific survey that asks participants to find and identify as many species of terrestrial animals, fish, plants, trees and fungi as they can observe through April 21. Entrants can list the common name for each species they discover for one point, along with its scientific name for an additional point.

“They don’t have to submit photos,” explained Dustin Moss, a DPW biologist, who is tracking the lists. “We just want people to have fun, get outdoors and observe nature at its best.”

Species submissions should be sent to Moss at dustin.e.moss.civ@mail.mil or by calling 573.596.0882.

— The E-Waste Challenge invites participants to bring their old electronics to the Fort Leonard Wood Recycling Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 22. Once there, participants can register their items, and the ones judged “most unique” will earn prizes.

“Customers are welcome to give us as much information as possible about the item when they register,” said Wilfong, who is also coordinating the e-waste event.

She noted some items will not be accepted, including government or business electronics or appliances, such as refrigerators, washers or dryers. Participants can call or email Wilfong for more information.

— The Ultimate “How Many” Challenge asks participants to estimate the number of “everything there is.” Participants can email contest coordinator Ronald Blevins with the Environmental Division at ronald.g.blevins.civ@mail.mil for a list of questions. Participants who make educated guesses closest to those of subject-matter experts will receive the most points, and the top three will take home prizes.

“Some (questions) are definitely easier to answer than others,” Blevins said. “Research is encouraged, but to keep the challenge fair, Environmental Division staff will be unable to assist (participants) with the answers. There is no penalty for guessing.”

For more information, entrants may contact Blevins at 573.596.3843.

— The Clean Step Challenge asks participants to walk, run and report the number of steps they take through April 21. With each mile averaging 2,250 steps, contest planners hope to gather 42,221 steps in honor of the date of this year’s Earth Day (on 4/22/21). Entrants can earn an additional 1,000 steps for picking up trash along their walking or running routes. Prizes will go to the top three participants with the most steps. Steps can be emailed to heather.l.williams1.ctr@mail.mil, and participants with questions may call 573.596.0882 for more details.

— The Scavenger Hunt Challenge will provide participants with a checklist of items they must find, photograph and turn in by noon April 21. To request a checklist, participants should email Blevins at ronald.g.blevins.civ@mail.mil. Scavenger-hunt photos must be taken during the contest period.

— The Earth Day Photo Challenge is seeking the best nature-themed photos from Fort Leonard Wood shutterbugs. Photographers of all skill levels can compete by snapping photos while taking nature hikes, eating a meal outdoors, gazing at stars, observing wildlife, gardening, visiting a park or engaging in other outdoor activities through April 16. The best photos submitted will be posted on the official Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page by April 19, where visitors can vote for their favorite images. Photos should be emailed to stephanie.l.nutt.ctr@mail.mil by noon April 16.

— The Family Fishing Challenge invites participants to head to their favorite fishing hole and submit photos of their catches by email to john.d.brant4.ctr@mail.mil through April 22. All fish must be caught with a pole or rod and reel. Entries will be judged by the length of each catch, so photos should include fish pictured next to a ruler or other reference item to show scale. First place will be awarded to the biggest sunfish, which includes any species of sunfish, while second place will go to the biggest fish of any species. Third place will be awarded to the smallest fish of any species caught.

Fish may be harvested on or off post, but competitors must have all proper permits and licenses for the location they use. For more information, call 573.596.7604.

— The Logo Design Challenge seeks artistic participants to create a logo representing environmental compliance, natural resources (including the environment), and Fort Leonard Wood. Logos must have a Fort Leonard Wood or Missouri theme and must be simple enough that it can be monogrammed on a T-shirt or hat. Entries may be emailed to shannon.m.cain2.civ@mail.mil.

— The Last Chance Challenge will automatically enter participants who have entered the other contests but not won a first-, second- or third-place prize. Like most other events, the winner of this challenge will be announced on Earth Day.

A team effort

Neel noted this year’s Earth Day Challenge, like previous events, has been a team effort, with the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation joining the Environmental Division in planning, judging, answering questions and coming up with prizes.

He said after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year’s Earth Day activities, officials from all partnering organizations were determined to make this year’s event a reality, even if it wasn’t an in-person event.

“Not doing anything for Earth Day was not an option,” he said. “Earth Day is our opportunity to educate, help others enjoy the environment and foster an environmental ethic. We really hope everyone gives these challenges a try and has fun with them.”

For more information about the Earth Day Challenge, click on the “Earth Day” link on the Fort Leonard Wood Community Resources page at https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/contact/cr.