This past weekend we made our yearly voyage back to our farm in Greenville, Ohio where we will spend the rest of the summer. Matt and I are both from the Midwest so getting to spend time with our family is something we look forward to all year long. As much as we love New England, our hearts will always be back here in Ohio and Indiana.
Our farm is such a special place and I’m looking forward to sharing a glimpse into some of the incredible work the Light Foundation does here with young people. As a matter of fact, today marks the start of our premier program, Camp Vohokase, here on the farm. When Matt started the foundation in 2001 his dream was to create a leadership camp where young men could learn lifelong skills that would help them be R.E.A.L: Responsible, Ethical, Accountable, Leaders. This year marks the 9th annual Camp Vohokase, and for the next ten days 16 kids from around the country will be here with us at Chenoweth Trails (the farm’s formal name).
Our program model is a bit different than many other summer camps. There are always 16 boys in camp; 4 freshman, 4 sophomores, 4 juniors, and 4 seniors. Each group is from a different part of the country. Incoming freshman are asked to commit four years to our leadership program which includes 10 days here at Camp Vohokase each summer. We also require all campers to keep up their grades, complete a yearly community service project in their home towns, and participate in quarterly visits with our head counselors. In return, we promise to commit to showing them how to best achieve success in life, school, work, and personal relationships. Our hope is that after four years each young man graduates from the program ready to become leaders in their own communities with a heart for service.
While here our campers have the opportunity to do archery, dirtbike riding, fishing, gocarting, a ropes course, woodworking, blacksmithing, and videography. And although we are not a “football” camp, we do have a beautiful turf field where the boys play sports such as football, soccer, ultimate frisbee, wiffle ball and gaga. They are also responsible for chores, and must participate in morning workouts and a community service project here in town. Evenings are reserved for fireside chats. During this time the boys have a chance to talk about some real issues and struggles they may be experiencing back at home.
A Family Affair
Camp Vohokase has always been a family affair. In addition to Matt’s mom Marilyn, we have my mom, Mimi, my brother, Bret, my sister-in-law April, my niece and nephew, Kaelin and Justin in town from Indiana to help with the cooking and other behind the scene details (Bob, we’re missing you this year). Matt’s dad, Bill, is a wealth of knowledge and loves teaching the boys about ingenuity and survival through unique camp projects. Being able to serve young people alongside our families has been an incredible blessing!
The Light Foundation has the most talented and dedicated staff any organization could ask for. Our program director, Nick Shuckman, is truly passionate about helping young people and has become our biggest asset in creating and maintaining programs that make a real difference in the lives of others.
Our facility manager, Brian Rehmert not only maintains our 500 acre facility all year long, but has grown into a key counselor role during camp. The dedication of these two men is essential to this camp and the everyday workings of the Light Foundation.
In addition to Nick and Brian, our counselors are Dan and Edgar, both Purdue graduates and consequently phenomenal human beings. This year we also have two junior counselors, Demarcus and Chase, who are both graduates of Camp Vahokase! We are so honored that these two young men wanted to come back to help lead our young campers. They are both success stories, and we are so proud of the way they represent the Light Foundation in their communities.
Oh, and I can’t forget our biggest camper (and my personal favorite), Matt Light! Many people are surprised to hear that Matt actually stays out at camp all ten days with theses guys. I think it’s important for people to know that Matt never intended to be just “the face” of the Light Foundation. He genuinely cares about the kids we work with, and dedicates himself to the success and integrity of this organization 365 days a year.
It takes a village
Aside from the dozens of volunteers who help make Camp Vohokase possible here in Darke County, there are literally thousands back in New England and around the country who help make this camp possible. Our marketing team, The Goodwin Group, is the best in the business and helps Matt create fundraising events that provide financial support for building and maintaining all the programs provided by the Light Foundation.
In the midst of the devastating events occurring in our country today, it is nothing short of inspiring watching folks come together to share their time and talents in hopes of making a difference in the lives of young people. Matt and I have learned that sometimes all a child needs to succeed in life is the assurance that someone cares about them and believes they are capable of anything. I think we have found a unique way to apply that truth through our programs, and will be forever grateful to all the people who continue to share our vision and support the efforts of the Light Foundation!
I also wanted to add a special thank you to Glenn Rehmert, Paul Rehmert, and Mark Twaits for making Chenoweth Trails a first class facility for thousands of people to enjoy every year! …and for enduring the Light kids all summer. I know we’re a handful!
Over the next 10 days I will be posting snapshots of camp on my Instagram and Facebook. I hope you all enjoy them from wherever you are! After camp I’ll also post more detailed highlights on the blog!
All photos in this post were taken by my brother, Bret. Follow him on Instagram to see more of his sweet photography skills @bret_r