Upon founding the Light Foundation, Matt dreamt about starting a camp where young men could learn lifelong skills that would help them be R.E.A.L, Responsible, Ethical, Accountable, Leaders. For its 10th consecutive year, the Light Foundation’s premier program Camp Vohokase has done just that. Each year, Matt choses four incoming high school freshmen from an at-risk community and asks them to commit the next four years to our leadership program, which includes 10 days at Chenoweth Trails each summer. There are always 16 boys in camp, four from each grade level, with each group coming from a different part of the country. Those locations, all with a connect to the Light Foundation, include Greenville, Ohio, where Matt grew up; Woonsocket, Rhode Island, close to where Matt holds his signature fundraising event; New Orleans, Louisiana, where a like-minded charity had asked for help; West Lafayette, Indiana, where Matt attended Purdue; Gloucester, Worcester and New Bedford, Massachusetts, all close to where Matt played during his NFL years, and new this year, Hammond, Indiana, where Matt’s wife Susie grew up and identified a need for support. The young men are required to keep good academic standing, complete a yearly community service project back home and check in with our head counselors on a frequent basis. Program Director Edgar Flores does quarterly visits and with the rest of the Light Foundation team, tracks the kids’ progress year-round. In return, the campers have the opportunity to spend ten days amongst nature enjoying all that our beautiful facility has to offer whether it be skeet shooting, woodworking, canoeing, archery, fishing, dirt biking, etc. Despite all the fun we have here, the young men are responsible for daily chores, site visits to area businesses and the completion of a service project around Darke County. Each night of the stay is reserved for fireside chats. These chats are structured to help create a dialogue about the very real and difficult issues these young boys face back home.
For a lot of these kids, all they need is an opportunity. We use the outdoors as a real teaching tool and a way to get kids to open up. And with us, these kids aren't given anything. We make them work for everything they achieve. But through that they understand and value hard work, they learn work ethic, and they become proud of what they do and want to share their accomplishments. Our hope is that after four years, each young man graduates from the program ready to become leaders in their own communities, equipped with the necessary tools and a heart for service.
In the past 11 years, 26 at-risk young men have graduated from Vohokase Cultural Leadership Camp with the tools to tap into their greatest potential as people and community leaders.