PHILADELPHIA, June 18 /PRNewswire/ -- What started as a group of people casually talking about how much they love Philadelphia has evolved into a comprehensive civic pride program called Philly Friends, with its first official induction ceremony on Wednesday, June 18, 2003, for 200 residents of the region. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) has created the pride program to recruit Philly Friends of all ages who are eager to share their passion and enthusiasm about Philadelphia and to become expert tour guides for their visiting friends and relatives. "This program was created to encourage residents to be more proactive in sharing their pride and knowledge of the Philadelphia region in their everyday lives," says Meryl Levitz, GPTMC president and CEO. "Essentially, Philadelphians can become instrumental in marketing the city by spreading their positive enthusiasm to others. Philly Friends seeks to bring people together who want to learn more about their own hometown and to encourage people to visit other areas of the region." The Philly Friends program is the newest component of a larger three-year, $4 million marketing campaign aimed towards residents of the region called, Philly Friends and Family, which launched on October 1, 2002. The Philly Friends and Family campaign is comprised mostly of advertising, public relations and research and tourism product development such as the Philadelphia Neighborhood Tours. Philly Friends and Family is funded by the Delaware River Port Authority. Residents will be inducted into the Philly Friends program during a free, one-hour orientation. At each induction, Philly Friends will be treated to a performance by the improvisational comedy-troupe, Comedy Sportz, who will play three audience participation games that are peppered with Philadelphia fun facts and reasons why people love this area. Afterwards, inductees receive GPTMC's new Tourism Tool Kit, complete with: -- Philly Friends gift -- Philadelphia Speaks interactive CD-rom -- A new book called, 188 of The Coolest Things to Brag About in Philadelphia and Its Countryside -- Philly Friends membership card, good for admittance to future program events -- "Tell A Friend" card to recruit more friends -- Trip Planner and regional maps -- Monthly e-newsletter -- Invitations to special Philly Friends events -- The new Essential Guide To Eating & Drinking in Philadelphia "Civic pride has essentially been a grassroots movement in Philadelphia for decades," says Rachel Delano, Philly Friends project director at GPTMC. "We harnessed the grassroots spirit by bringing together a group of proud and involved Philadelphians, who are young, mature, suburban, urban, straight, gay, married and single, to shape our ideas into a program that gives people the opportunity and resources to spread the word about our wonderful region." To sign-up for the Philly Friends program, residents can visit www.gophila.com/friends or call (215) 599-0776. The next inductions will be held on June 30 at the Bucks County Conference & Visitors Center (3207 Street Road, Bensalem) and on July 10 at the Valley Forge Welcome Center (Route 23 and North Gulph Road, Valley Forge). Program begins promptly at 6 p.m. Visit www.gophila.com/friends for more dates and locations. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation is a non-profit organization dedicated to generating awareness of and visitation to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit www.gophila.com or call the new Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, at (800) 537-7676.
SOURCE The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation