Leadership Academy Program
During his Sophomore year in high school, Dan Hayter had the opportunity to join the first class of young men involved in the Light Foundation’s newly crafted four-year outdoor leadership program, Camp Vohokase. He knew Matt and Susie Light through his mother, Sally, who helps manage Addieville East Farm, a hunting preserve and clay shooting facility in Mapleville, Rhode Island, that has long hosted the Foundation’s signature annual fundraiser.
The first class of Camp Vohokase hailed from the Woonsocket area of Rhode Island. Dan’s fellow campers, Julian, Matt, and Dan, traveled to Greenville, Ohio to Chenoweth Trails. Now a state-of-the-art 500-plus acre facility designed for comprehensive youth programming, it was, back then, a rugged stretch of land with little of the infrastructure present today. Think canvas tents, cold gravity showers, and man-made campfires, and muddy grounds; rustic would be putting it nicely. Four young men from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana joined the Rhode Island crew, as part of the Foundation’s goal of cultural exchange between young men from different backgrounds who learned to be responsible, ethical, and accountable leaders as one cohesive group.
Early on, Dan saw the commitment from Matt, Susie, and their extended families to the mission of the Foundation. Everyone was involved – from running the programming to giving instruction to cooking the meals. “When you’re there, you always feel like one of them,” he notes. “I realized later how important that family-oriented approach was to our overall success.”
Dan says he was always interested in the outdoors, but for some of his fellow campers – the on-site activities were brand new. He says he learned a lot through his friendships with other young men – lessons that served him well in his time since Camp Vohokase spent traveling the globe as an Aircraft Structural Maintenance Engineer for the United States Air Force. He enlisted shortly after graduating from high school and has spent the better part of a decade in active duty, doing metal fabrication for all parts of military aircraft.
He admits that a lot of what he learned has translated well to a career that’s also based on structure, accountability, and mutual respect. “It had a much bigger impact on me than I realized at the time. Even if the lessons aren’t one-to-one with what I’m doing now, they’re always in the back of my mind, helping me make the right choices, and be of service to others.”
The ability to come back in the summer of 2020 as a counselor for Camp Vohokase provided Dan Hayter with a full, 360-degree view, a perspective he hopes all campers will be able to do at some future point in their adult lives. He says he understands where they’re at when they come to Chenoweth Trails – resistant to change, not interested in authority, and focused on fun – and he can identify with what they’re feeling. “Matt and Susie’s commitment to me was very evident to me, even as a young man, and the lessons the Light Foundation taught me to resonate with me until this day. I’ll do all I can to give back by paying those lessons forward to new generations of young men.” He’ll be doing just that this coming summer as a counselor once again, welcoming the new class from the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Northern Maine.
– Daniel Hayter