Our Vohokase Cultural Leadership Program is a year round program working with youth from all over the country. We work with these 16 kids year round via weekly phone calls and visits to their homes. Every week our Program Director calls all the kids to check in about anything they are dealing with or working through. We also touch base with their parents, schools administrators, and other mentors working with the youth. In addition, we travel to the homes of all our kids and spend a weekend building our relationship with them and have some fun twice a year. We do not want the kids to lose what they learned at camp, so we visit them in their homes and challenge them to continue 'Living the Light'.
A big part of our program is our 10 day summer camp in which we fly all 16 kids to our 500+ acre facility in Greenville, Ohio. In those 10 days we have a lot of fun, but even more important, we work with the kids on life skills and discuss ways they can improve their own lives. We have amazing real life discussions with the guys about their lives, their families, and their goals for the future. We push these guys to challenge themselves in many different ways; mentally, physically, and emotionally. Our counselors provide real life experiences and guidance to help the campers grow and challenge their own actions and thoughts. Our campers are successful because they are mentored by one another, our counselors, Matt and his family, and many other Light Foundation team members who genuinely want to see these young men grow into successful contributing members of their community and families.
Winter Visit MA Feb 2017
Unfortunately because of weather, Nick’s flight to Providence was canceled and could not make the visit. On the bright side, this meant that the weather would be great for skiing. Saturday morning had greeted us with a few more inches of snow. That morning, John had picked up the kids from New Bedford and brought them to Matt’s house. We all then decided to caravan to Wachussett Mountain and make a detour to Worcester to pick up Dontrell. We arrived at Wachussett Mountain and began putting on our rental gear. Since the New Bedford Campers had never been skiing before, we decided to start the day at the bunny hills. Dontrell joined us to warm up for the green and blue slopes. After a couple of runs down the bunny hills, with pointers from Matt and Edgar, and after a few falls, the campers were ready for the green slopes. Anton decided to stay with Matt and Dontrell while Devin and Tyhon went with Edgar. Devin and Tyhon really began to enjoy skiing once they started to snake their way down the slopes. Tyhon struggled getting up after he had fallen a bit more than the others. But after observing how the others got up, he was able to mimic their technique and it became easy again. After about 5 runs down the slopes, we decided to meet up with Matt, Dontrell, and Anton back at the lodge for lunch. Everyone got food from the cafeteria and talked about their struggles and goals for the next few runs before going out again. We all went out back to the slopes with plans to leave a few minutes at the end of the day for their famous Waffles. On this second set of runs, the campers decided to try going off some of the smaller jumps that were formed. Although they didn’t complete the jump on the first try, by then end of the day they had managed to stay on their feet. We went down the mountain a few more times before going to the Waffle Stand. Unfortunately, there was an hour and a half wait to get some waffles so we decided to just make our way home and grab dinner on the road.
Ohio - Winter Visit 2017
Had a great time hanging out with these young men. We started the visit off with dinner at Sharps in Palestine, OH. Justin, Robin and the whole Sharps crew have been big supporters of everything and anything we do. After dinner and some great conversation we headed back to the Roost for some needed rest. As you will see in the pictures I was short one camper and this is because these visits are a privilege for these guys and a certain someone had a not so good 2nd quarter report card. Our guys have to be willing to put in the work to take advantage of the awesome opportunities that will come their way while in this program. This young man missed out on a great weekend with friends.
Saturday morning we had breakfast of champions as we ran through the McDonalds drive in and headed to Columbus, Oh for the day. When we arrived in Columbus we headed over to LVL UP Paintball. I think it rained the previous 5 days in Columbus and by the end of the battles we were all covered in mud. People were losing their shoes in the mud and the paintball facility ran out of paintballs to sell. They had 5 different fields to play on and we mixed it up with some speed ball and some tactical fields. By the end of our time there we were exhausted from running around in the mud. After cleaning ourselves up as best as possible we headed for Nationwide Arena to see the Columbus Blue Jackets Pro Hockey team. They won the game 3-2 and it was a great time hanging out and watching the game with these young men. On the way home we grabbed some pizza and said our goodbyes. We had a great time and the guy were excited and already talking about the spring visit.
I hate to uninvited one of our campers on a visit. We get such limited time to hang out with these guys, but it is important these guys learn priorities and make sure they are taking care of the important things.
Winter Visit 2017
The Winter visit began by having dinner with William Slate. Will decided to go to Origami Sushi even though he is allergic to Shellfish. Luckily, there was no trips to the hospital because he was aware of his allergies and ate sushi that contained no shellfish. Afterwards, Will wanted to go to the high school basketball game. We first stopped by the soccer match that was going on and stayed for the first half. The game began to slow down so we decided to make our way to the gymnasium to watch the basketball game. We were able to catch the second half and it was a good thing we did because according to Will, “That game was lit.” After the game, we went to Baskin Robins for some ice cream. It was on the way there that Will said he had only tried mint chocolate chip once when he was younger and it tasted horrible. I was able to convince him to try a sample of it and although he said it did not taste bad, he was still going with cookies ‘n cream for his flavor. We finished our ice cream and then that ended the night.
The next morning, I picked up the guys at 9 am – which they refer to as bright and early. Diego was the one who had picked the breakfast spot so we headed downtown to Couli’s. Couli’s is a hipster restaurant which does a Cajun version of Biscuits and gravy. Everyone had a big meal so they could get enough energy for Putt Putt. We made our way to City Park where we played 18 holes of Putt Putt. Going in to the 18th hole, there was a tie for 1st and a tie for 3rd. In the end, Corrado took the Win by two strokes. The guys wanted to take a break afterwards so we bought some refreshments and found a shaded bench at the park. The weather was perfect so we sat at the park for about an hour and watched the people play soccer and throw Frisbees while we talked about video games.
We then drove over to the other side of City Park and played Frisbee Golf. The guys had grown tired of walking those far distances between holes in the hot sun so we only played 9 holes. We then decided to go to Drago’s Seafood restaurant which Corrado had suggested because they had phenomenal fresh clams. While some people ordered the clams, some people ordered lobster. For our next activity, we had decided to go and play laser tag. When we had arrived, there was no parking to be found because there were 6 birthday parties going on. Although it wasn’t our first choice since we had just gotten done eating, we decided to drive a few blocks and go to Sector 6 – an indoor trampoline place. Once we had arrived there, there was a line going all the way outside of the building to get tickets. It was a unanimous decision so we decided to leave and go to a bowling alley downtown which the guys had picked out. When we walked inside, we asked if there were any lanes open and they said that there was a wedding party who had rented out the entire facility. We all went back to the car and debated on what to do. A majority vote established that we would go back to Laser Quest and play at the arcade until laser tag was available. Luckily for us, by the time we got done driving around the city with the other activities, most of the birthday parties had finished and laser tag was available. Gabe and Corrado scored among the top 3 players for the respective games. In between games, the guys were able to win tickets at the arcade. After all of the running around from laser tag, we decided to go get smoothies to finish the day.
Ohio - Fall Visit 2016
The Fall visit to Ohio was planned by one of our own campers, Dylan Pope. He was given the task to plan the activities and restaurants we would be going to throughout the entire day. During our weekly calls, he informed me ahead of time of what he had in mind. First on the schedule was lunch at Texas Roadhouse. After a delicious lunch, we prepared ourselves for the first activity… Sky Zone. Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline venue in which you can free jump on the set of continuous trampolines, jump off of a trampoline into the Foam Pit, use the trampolines to slam dunk a basketball, or use the trampolines as an arena for ultimate dodgeball. The guys began at the trampoline arena to play ultimate dodgeball. They were randomly split up into teams along with the other kids at Sky Zone. After about 30 minutes of playing dodgeball, Trenton and Dallas decided to go Free Jump while Dylan and Christian decided to try out the Slam Dunk area. After some time of this, the campers all decided to go back to the dodgeball arena to continue playing more dodgeball. There was no clear winner for dodgeball as different games would produce different winners, but it was certain that everyone had fun Dodging, Ducking, Dipping, Diving, and Dodging.
After spending an hour and a half at Sky Zone, we made our way to Laser Tag. We were all put on the same team. The bragging rights came when at the end Christian was camper who was best ranked among the others. He was able to get the most hits without getting hit as many times. Dylan then had decided that after Laser Tag, we would go play 18 holes at PuttPutt. It was there that we found out that Dallas was secretly good at PuttPutt. He ended up having the lowest score and beating Dylan by only 1 stroke.
Time was running out, so we decided to eat dinner at the Bowling Alley which was the last activity on Dylan’s Agenda. It was there that we were surprised to find out that Trenton had never bowled before but it didn't not look like he had never bowled before. He was definitely keeping up with the other campers! Dylan won the first two games while Christian was able to win the 3rd and last game of the night. After the last game, we made our way back to Greenville to end the Fall Visit.
Worcester / New Bedford Fall Visit 2016
Just completed my Fall 2016 visit with the young men of New Bedford, MA and the recent graduates from Worcester, MA. Our Worcester graduates had the opportunity to greet and thank all of our Shoot-Out participants. As participants at the Shoot-Out signed in our 3 graduates introduced themselves and gave all participants a THANK YOU card from our summer leadership program. After dinner these guys took center stage with Matt and told everyone there the importance of our program and the impact it made on their lives. It was an awesome day and these three young men did a great job.
Friday evening I drove into Boston to watch our 4 New Bedford Freshmen and their football team play Everett. Historically New Bedford is the underdog in this game, but the guys rallied the team and got the job done, defeating Everett by a touchdown. It was a great game and it was awesome to see these young men in action. Saturday morning I swung through Worcester, MA and then headed to New Bedford to get the rest of the guys. We started the day off with an amazing experience at Vitality Obstacle Fitness. Jordan Thurston is the owner and he invited us to work out with him and see what it would be like to compete and train for American Ninja Warrior. We spent 3 hours there working out and learning some valuable things from Jordan. He discussed dedication, work ethic, and hard work with these guys. Nothing in life comes easy, but if you are passionate and have the drive you can accomplish anything. Our guys love the American Ninja Warrior TV show and were very excited to complete and try all the obstacles. Needless to say we were exhausted after only three hours of playing like ninjas. After the workout we headed for a bowling competition. It was the young men from New Bedford versus me and the older men of Worcester. The New Bedford guys started out very confident, but experience definitely won out in the end. We ended the visit with some grub, conversation, laughs and football on TV. As always it was great to see and hangout with all these guys.
THANK YOU Jordan Thurston and Vitality Obstacle Fitness. If you compete on American Ninja Warrior you will definitely have a group of guys cheering for you every step of the way.
SPRING Massachusetts Visit - May 2016
What a great weekend with the guys from Worcester! It all began on Friday by picking up Isaiah, Dontrell, and Luis. We headed to Dave and Busters for a night of food and arcade games. While we waited for the food, we all decided to challenge each other in the various arcade games ranging from basketball, to air hockey, to Time Crisis. Luis was able to win the jackpot on one of the arcade games which consisted of over 800 tickets. With those tickets he was able to buy a little girl the prize which she had accidentally dropped and broken. After being at D and B’s for a few hours, we made the commute to Matt Light's house to call it a night.
The next morning, we had breakfast with the Light Family before making our way to Luis’s Basketball Tournament. Luis was naturally leading the team to a win! Great job Luis!!! After the game, we traveled back to Worcester to drop Isaiah off since his family was moving but we picked up Luis’s cousin to go with us to Six Flags New England. Once there, Dontrell and I rode the Goliath while Luis and his cousin refused to ride. After the Goliath, Dontrell and I were able to ride every attraction at Six Flags!! Dontrell was FINALLY able to convince Luis and his cousin to ride one attraction before leaving the park, which was awesome and the day was complete so we headed back home.
Thank you all for your continued support and for checking in with us!
SPRING Ohio Visit - April 2016
The weekend visit was off to a great start when after picking up the four guys, Christian was able to fix the radio. For months, the radio would not play any sound but with a little magic, Christian was able to make it work. Once the radio was working, Dylan was able to get the Bluetooth to connect to his device. Dylan was then appointed as the DJ for the remainder of the trip. After driving through an impromptu snow storm, we made it to the hotel in Indianapolis.
We checked in, and then hopped back in the vehicle to go to dinner. We all decided to go to Charleston’s, where the guys ate burgers, steaks, and ribs. Once we returned to the hotel, the guys wanted to go swimming but unfortunately, no one had remembered to pack their swimsuits. The guys then decided to play a game which brought much laughter to everyone. The game consists of one person putting on headphones with music playing so they cannot hear what the others are saying. The others then come up with a sentence that they try to get the person with the headphones to repeat. Repeating the sentence is much harder than it seems because there is an endless possibility of what it could be. After multiple rounds of this, the guys ended up calling it a night and decided to go to sleep.
Saturday began with a great breakfast at the hotel. We then made our way to the stadium for the Super Cross event. We met up with Brian Rehmert at the stadium and were able to go into the area where all of the bikes and buses were. Unfortunately the weather was cold so the riders were not outside. While we were there, the guys were able to try out Virtual Reality and sit on some of the dirt bikes. Once the Stadium opened up, we watched many of the Practice and Qualifying Rounds leading up to the Main Events. The guys ended up cheering for the Stewart brothers who raced in both of the Main Events. Once the race was over, we headed back to the hotel and played some more rounds of the sentence-guessing game before going to bed. The weekend ended with breakfast at the hotel, packing, and then driving back to Ohio.
WINTER VISIT WITH MA AND RI BOYS - January, 2016
My winter visit with the wild and crazy crews from Providence, RI and Worcester, MA, was once again filled with good conversation, good food, and a lot of fun and laughter. Thursday night, our recent graduate Dennilson DaRosa and his brother Melson got a chance to do something not many others get the chance to do. The amazing painter and artist Brian Fox opened up his studio for a private tour and conversation about art and being an artist. Brian is an amazing artist and person who has been a great friend of Matt’s and the entire Light Foundation family. Brian is only open to the public once a year for 2 days and when Dennilson asked if he could visit with him, Brian said, “Anytime!” and it was an awesome experience seeing his studio. Dennilson and his brother fired question after question to Brian and he gave them both so much insight and information that the kids were smiling the entire 45 minute ride home because of the exclusive visit. THANK YOU Brian Fox for your time! You are a great man!
On Friday, counselor Edgar and I picked up the kids and we all headed to watch Luis Ojeda and his basketball team put on a clinic and execute an excellent game plan designed by his coach and Dad. It was great to see Luis O in his element on the court doing his thing. We all spent Friday night at Matt’s house getting ready for Saturday’s ski trip to Wachusett Mountain.
On Saturday some of the guys headed with Matt and his family to cheer Matt’s son, Will, on to victory on the basketball court for his game. The other guys woke up and started making breakfast. Chef Luis Ojeda was in control of the kitchen and did a fabulous job. We had some fruit, pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, and OJ. After breakfast, we drove up to Wachusett Mountain for some skiing. The team at Wachusett Mountain is top notch and took very good care of us. After getting our gear and spending a couple of hours out on the mountain, they put us up in a suite and we ate lunch while talking about the adventures on the slopes. After lunch, we had time for a couple more runs before heading back home for the day.
It was a great visit. It was so incredible to see these guys and hang out with them. We missed seeing both Ethan and Ellijah from the Providence crew, as they were competing in basketball games for their school. From the Worcester group, we were missing Luis M as he is in Utah working on bettering his life with the help of some tremendously kind people out there. I will be heading up to visit Luis mid-February and will let you all know how he is doing at that time.
Thank you all for your continued support and for checking in with us!
In 2013 we recorded the camp video which was born from a challenge to the kids about leaving their legacy at camp. In 2014, our Tennessee campers took it one step further and asked to record a camp song. The song was written start to finish by our Tennessee seniors a month before camp. They even came up with the beat and harmony of what they wanted the song to sound like. When they got to camp, they introduced their song to other campers and Bill Light who helped them put it all together. We recorded the song at camp and by the end of camp we had a final product that was played at the graduation ceremony for our Tennessee seniors. Our Tennessee campers are a very special group of young men whose voices will be remembered for a long long time.
Camp Vohokase -- Building Youth Leaders at Chenoweth Trails
Camp Vohokase, The Light Foundation's 10-day Youth Leadership Program held on the Foundation's 400-plus acre facility, Chenoweth Trails, in Greenville, OH.
Camp Vohokase graduated three seniors from West Lafayette, Indiana -- the third 'class' to complete all four years of the program--– and continued to extend its reach, welcoming four incoming 'freshmen' from Worcester, MA. Each summer, the Camp routinely hosts approximately 15-16 boy-- – four groups selected from across the country. They hail from Rhode Island, where Light holds his annual Celebrity ShootOut fundraising event; West Lafayette, Indiana, where he played at Purdue University, Nashville, Tennessee, where a local youth organization looking to build leadership into an existing program is located; and now Worcester, MA. The Light Foundation tracks all who attend year-round, to ensure they stay on course; and Light plans to expand the number of campers each year.
The Chenoweth Trails facility itself has grown dramatically within recent years. It now boasts living quarters known as yurts, a state-of-the-art cooking and eating area, outdoor fireplace and fire pit, electricity, running water, miles of trails, a pond, an outdoor amphitheater and parking lot -- and within just the last year, a new timber frame pavilion, turf field, adjacent kitchen and bathroom facility were added. The facility holds other community-based events throughout the year, and also lends its property to nonprofits like the Boy Scouts and the YMCA.
During the ten-day program, campers participate in on-site and community-based programs intended to instill leadership, including trail-based activiti--s – such as fishing and arch--ry – a community service project, and site visits to area businesses. This year campers lead Bingo, prepared and served lunch, and entertained residents at The Brethren Retirement Community. They also toured two companies on career day: Neff Co and The Dayton Daily News. Campers enjoyed a Camp Yale ropes course, canoeing, paint ball competition, dirt bike riding, a camp project, and engaged in "fireside chats" about goals and expectations. Light says it's the combination of fun, service and hard work that is often transformative for the boys.
While the campers admit the conditions are "rustic," many agree the experience is life-altering. "This camp changed my life dramatically," says former camper, Dustin Waymire. "When I first came here, I was socially awkward. I was angry all the time... angry at the world. They took me in here, and built up my confidence and self-esteem," he adds, "I can't say enough about Matt Light. He had faith in me even when I didn't have it in myself."
"We want these kids to serve something bigger than themselves; they help others and help themselves by doing that. 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. These guys are learning how to become great citizens, great neighbors, and great friends. They're learning how to be great people. We're helping them build that." - Matt Light