It’s hard to believe we’ve just wrapped up the Light Foundation’s 10th annual Camp Vohokase here on our family farm, Chenoweth Trails, in Darke County, Ohio.
If you’re new to my blog you can check out my post “Welcome to Camp Vohokase” for some background about how this whole thing got started.
Otherwise, here is the short of it: Matt and I started the Light Foundation back in 2001 as a way to use his platform as a professional athlete to give back and show our gratitude for all we’ve been given. Our mission from day one was to create programs geared toward teaching young people to be R.E.A.L.- Responsible, Ethical, Accountable, Leaders.
Our premier program, Camp Vohokase, was born out of Matt’s intense love of the outdoors, and takes place on our family farm, Chenoweth Trails. Every summer 16 young men (4 Freshmen, 4 Sophomores, 4 Juniors, and 4 Seniors, each from different parts of the country) make their way to camp for 10 days of outdoor activities such as, archery, canoeing, fishing, and dirt biking.
While here the boys are given daily chores to help maintain the camp facilities, engage in a community service project, and participate in nightly fireside chats. The fireside chats are structured to help create dialogue about some tough issues being faced by young people, and in my opinion is the most crucial and beneficial element of Camp Vohokase.
Our hope is that after four years, these young men leave here with a heart for giving back and the tools needed to be self-sufficient, confident leaders in their own communities.
Every year our campers are assigned camp projects on the farm. These activities are designed to teach useful skills such as carpentry, engineering, cooperation, and is a way for each class to leave their mark on Chenoweth Trails.
This year’s main camp project was to complete the ‘Shelter at The Pond’ which we actually started during Camp Vohokase 2016. Terry Clark from Bear’s Mill and his crew were on hand again to teach the kids about the ancient art of timber framing.
We love that the boys will come back here someday and tell the stories of the two summers it took to build this beautiful structure.
Annie steals a hug from her daddy. Many people are surprised to learn that even though we live on the farm, Matt actually stays all ten days as a counselor alongside the campers. I believe this is what sets him apart from many other athlete philanthropists; from day one his intention was to work with young people… not just be the face of an organization that does. I’m very proud of his unending commitment to this goal.
Another camp project was to make these blue bird boxes. Matt is passionate about the importance of conservation, and the bird boxes help teach the boys about the role native blue birds play in the environment.
Earlier this year Matt asked his engineer dad, Bill, if he could teach the boys about trebuchets. We should have known Professor Bill would knock his task out of the park!
First, Bill presented Matt with a few tiny renderings of possible trebuchet designs. After a design was agreed upon, he got to work on the full size version of this medieval war machine…
Ask and ye shall receive!
The boys loved learning all about the physics and mechanics of the trebuchet. At the end of camp they had to apply what they learned from Bill in a competition between the two yurts to see who could launch melons the furthest, and with the most accuracy (the West Yurt and East Yurt have all kinds of competitions throughout camp for special swag bags awarded on graduation day).
One of the most popular camp activities over the years has always been riding dirt bikes on our very own flat track at Chenoweth Trails.
Brian Rehmert, our facilities manager for Chenoweth Trails, and his family have been riding for decades and provide the campers with bikes, gear, and the know how on riding days.
As a matter of fact, Brian has coached our own boys, Collin and Will, since they were 5 years old, so I especially enjoy watching them ride in this setting.
The boys always look forward to this activity in camp. In years past they would navigate down the Greenville Creek, but this year they launched in Wayne Lakes, and really seemed to enjoy the calm waters.
Nick, our program director show off his paddling skills.
Archery has always been a big part of Matt’s life and he loves sharing this skill with young people.
Matthews donated bows to the Light Foundation years ago to help provide our campers with a first class learning experience.
The Pond at Chenoweth
Life here at camp is pretty structured but the pond provides a place where the campers can just kick back and cool off.
Ruger Firearms has been a longtime sponsor of the Light Foundation and generously provided shotguns to Camp Vohokase which makes shooting clays possible right here on the farm.
Matt has always believed that providing young people with the opportunity to learn how to handle and shoot guns has endless and unique benefits. This activity requires an incredible amount of self-control, discipline, attention to detail, and consequently is an earned privilege here in camp. It really is amazing to see the kind of confidence and empowerment shooting builds in young people when they realize they’re being trusted with the responsibility of holding and operating a gun.
We’re really fortunate to have several experienced shooters on staff to help out with this special part of camp. Aside from some life long outdoorsmen, we have two retired police officers on hand to unsure that this is always a safe activity.
The Grub Hub
Feeding 16 campers and a full staff in the middle of the woods is no easy task. Luckily, Matt and I have amazing families who have provided camp with delicious, homemade meals throughout our ten days here at Chenoweth Trails.
The campers take turns saying a blessing before each meal.
The graduation ceremony is held on the last night of camp at our Kraut Creek Amphitheater here on the farm. It’s a time to honor our Seniors and reflect back on their four summers here.
This year we said goodbye to our Senior class from New Orleans, LA. Four years ago these guys made a commitment to this program and we are so proud of the way each of them have grown through their relationship with the Light Foundation.
Will, Corrado, Gabe, and Diego have certainly left their mark on Camp Vohokase and we will truly miss them! I’d also like to mention that this entire class was sponsored by the New Orleans Saints quarterback (and our dear friend), Drew Brees and The Brees Dream Foundation. We are so grateful for Drew’s support of the Light Foundation and all the incredible work he and his family are doing in their own communities. #goodegg
While I’m at it, I’d like to thank all the folks who have generously donated time, money, resources, and unending support to help ensure this program is a success year after year! Whether you’re a title sponsor of the Matt Light Celebrity Shoot Out or someone who volunteers to park cars at one of our events, you are all part of this camp!
The Light Foundation offers scholarship opportunities, hosts a yearly youth turkey hunt, a free football camp, a Leadership Conference, incentive based reading programs, and of course, our pride and joy… Camp Vohokase! For more information regarding upcoming events and ways you can help support the Light Foundation check out the Light Foundation website.