Gretchen Roufs' portraitMike and Bonnie Gluhanich have won everything from a kayak to a karaoke machine. They’ve also won: a Caribbean cruise and trips to Australia, Grand Cayman, Portugal, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Scottsdale; books, DVDs, at least five digital cameras, and more baseball caps than they can count.

Mike, president of Geerpres Inc., a manufacturer in Muskegon, Mich., and his wife, Bonnie, are sweepstakes aficionados. “We easily spend about three hours per day on the computer entering sweepstakes,“ Bonnie said. During the week, she gets up early in the morning and watches the news and enters sweepstakes. Mike relieves her on the weekends. When they are successful, which is pretty often, Mike said, “Bonnie actually wins and I pay the taxes.”

According to Mike, the sweepstakes they enter typically require no skills. “All you do is fill out a form,” he said. It all started about 30 years ago when Mike and Bonnie won $50 in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. Their next notable win was $1,000 from a major toy company.

“We got to the point where we would expect to win one trip a year,” Mike said. “However, sweepstakes have grown because there are so many people using the Internet, so it’s harder to win these days.”

While they modestly told me they focus on sweepstakes that don’t require any kind of talent, that’s not entirely accurate. Bonnie was a contestant on the national television quiz show “Jeopardy!” and won over $17,000 in cash and a trip to Portugal. She also won a trip to New Mexico on the “Regis Philbin Live” television talk show by giving correct answers to a trivia question about the movie “Animal House.”

When you do win one of the bigger prizes in a sweepstakes, Mike said you typically receive an envelope delivered by overnight courier. “You’re asked to sign affidavits of eligibility to confirm that you’re not an employee — or a relative of an employee — of the sponsoring company. You are required to fill out a tax form and to have your signature notarized. When you’ve done all that, the sponsor then sends you information on how to execute the prize,” said Mike. When the Gluhanichs claimed their Australia prize, the sponsor ultimately turned them over to a travel agency to set up their 14-night trip.

Occasionally, they choose not to enter a contest. For instance, Bonnie doesn’t want to win a $20,000 motorcycle, so she wouldn’t enter that kind of sweepstakes. Sometimes they win things they don’t need. Bonnie says the local charity secondhand store is always happy to see her. “I give them a lot of baseball caps and t-shirts with garish logos.”

In 2006 alone, the Gluhanichs have already won over $500 in retail gift cards, a watch, eight DVDs, a game, a cookbook and a digital camera. Last year, their winnings included a GPS unit, an MP3 player, bike helmets, and encyclopedias for their local school.

Bonnie and Mike inspired me to enter some sweepstakes. I signed up to win a trip to Ireland, a spa vacation in Mexico, a trip to a TV show and some free books. I can’t wait to receive one of those “You’re a winner!” overnight packages.

With my luck, though, I’ll end up with a gaudy t-shirt from the nearby museum that is currently sponsoring the “Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies” sweepstakes.

Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “freetime,” contact her at