DARKE COUNTY – When Matt Light brings boys into Darke County from across the United States for the Light Foundation’s leadership camp, he wants them to leave their mark.
Sixteen boys from at-risk areas attended this year’s Camp Vohokase, the Light Foundation’s annual leadership camp at its Chenoweth Trails facility near Greenville. The graduating seniors – Dontrell Kiser-Miranda, Luis Matos, Luis Ojeda and Isaiah Florez – came from Worcester, Massachusetts, while the juniors came from Nashville, the sophomores are from Darke County, and the freshman class came from New Bedford, Massachusetts.
One of the main tasks of this year’s 10 day camp was a timber frame project near a pond at Chenoweth Trails. The project required a lot of physical labor for the boys as they worked on all aspects of the structure.
“We like the idea that every year, every other year, at least some point in each camper’s four-year career at camp that they do something where they can leave their stamp or they can leave their mark on this facility,” said Light, a Greenville native and founder of the Light Foundation.
Past groups at Camp Vohokase have created various projects around Chenoweth Trails such as an outdoor kitchen, seating around the camp and decking around the yurts – a type of tent. Another year the campers created a deck at Bear’s Mill.
“We try to do things like that that are concrete, that are long lasting, that are the kind of projects where they can look back and say, ‘Man, I did that,’” Light said.
The timber frame included no nails or screws. It’s held together by pegs and joints that the campers created.
“Especially for these seniors, their last year, they’re going to get to leave a frame that’s going to be in place for a hundred years,” Light, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, said. “And those timbers are over a hundred years old. They came out of barns from right here in Darke County, which is really cool. It’s just a cool story for them.”
Past campers have returned to Chenoweth Trails, and Light hopes this year’s group does in the future as well. With a permanent structure in place, they’ll be able to see the fruits of their labors.
“They’re going to come back hopefully down the road, they’re going to bring their families, and they’re going to say, ‘I built that. I built that sheltered area by the pond, and it’s still standing. I pounded those pegs,’” Light said.
In addition to the timber frame project at Chenoweth Trails, the boys also did community service projects including hosting games for children at Trinity Wesleyan Church and leading games of bingo at Brethren Retirement Community.
They also enjoyed many outdoor activities such as go-kart racing, dirt bike riding, paintball, swimming and various sports.
“You want to keep the camp atmosphere, too,” Light said. “Keep it fun.”
While the leadership camp in Darke County is one of the Light Foundation’s biggest annual events, the non-profit organization makes sure each of its 16 boys are remaining on the right track throughout the year with weekly calls and quarterly visits to their hometowns.
“We’re just constantly trying to keep things in focus and what’s important,” Light said. “They’ve got to earn the right to come back here.”