GREENVILLE – The Light Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2001 by three-time Super Bowl champion and Greenville native Matt Light, is gearing up for its ninth annual Youth Wild Turkey Hunt, scheduled to kick off on April 21 and wrap up on April 23.
The actual hunt will take place on April 22 and 23 on the grounds of the foundation’s 400-plus acre facility, Chenoweth Trails, in Greenville as well as on land all over Darke County cleared for access by local land owners. A kick-off dinner, safety training and orientation for all participating youth hunters will take place at 4:30 p.m. April 21 at The Eagles on Shade Road in Greenville.
Once again, the Light Foundation called on area youth, between the ages of 12 and 17, who enjoy the outdoors, are interested in exploring wildlife habitats and want to support conservation efforts to take part in the Youth Wild Turkey Hunt. Light and his team reached out to the local community and Darke County area schools through a public service announcement campaign – asking for those interested in participating to fill out an application. He had interested youth also submit a 500-600 word typed essay on the following topic: “Explain the importance of local and national conservation efforts and what you can do to help preserve wildlife and your natural surroundings.”
The feedback for applicants was overwhelming, and Light and his team from the camp will be taking 16 kids out on a youth hunt. Participants must be able to present a valid 2017 Ohio hunting license during registration, and first-time hunters also need to pass a hunter safety course or comply with apprentice hunter registrations.
Light, a Greenville native, is passionate about caring for the environment and respecting local wildlife and said he wanted to give area youth an opportunity to learn about the sport.
“These kids will have so much fun hunting and learning techniques to practice the sport safely,” he said. “They’ll also have a chance to get even more involved in the community by volunteering at our foundation’s Chenoweth Trails facility later this spring. We’ve been doing this now for almost a decade, and it’s always a great time. We honestly get just as much out of it as the kids do.”
Many area businesses have graciously stepped up to support the cause including sponsors: Applegate Livestock, Koenig Equipment, Frank Miller Lumber, Pheasants Forever, Eco-Vehicle Systems, LLC, the Jason Fleming Family, Bob Evans, Gander Mountain, Eikenberry’s IGA, Quaker Boy, Cabela’s, BASF, Aesthetic Finishers, Sharp’s Tavern, MaidRite, Frito Lay, Incorporated, Specialty Hybrid, Jerry’s Laundry, Channel Seed (SonLight), Mote Farm Service, Inc., Syngenta, FOE No. 2177 (Eagles), Thompson Center, Rural King, Bettker Taxidermy and Mycogen. Firearms manufacturer Thompson Center continues to play a significant role, lending product support year after year.
The Light Foundation also thanked WTGR, Darke County schools, Alex Stewart, all youth guides and spotters, and all the private landowners who have donated the use of their land for the event.
“This weekend is made possible by the community coming together,” Light said. “And without the generous help from all parts of our community, a successful youth hunt wouldn’t be possible.”
The Light Foundation’s mission is to instill and augment the core values of responsibility, accountability and hard work by providing youth with opportunities geared toward helping them reach their highest potential. The Light Foundation’s initiatives include various programs for at-risk teens in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Orleans, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee, and Light’s home state of Ohio.
In 2009, the foundation opened its outdoor leadership camp: Camp Vohokase at Chenoweth Trails, which has been upgraded and expanded with more trails, additional living quarters, an outdoor cooking and eating area, a firepot for fireside chats, a timber frame pavilion for large-group meetings and events, a stocked fishing pond and an outdoor amphitheater.
Light plans to expand the locations his campers come from every few years, and the foundation tracks all who attend year-round, to ensure they stay on course. He also plans to keep holding community-based events like the youth hunt, which aids his nonprofit in serving as a beacon for other charitable organizations, athletes and youth. Over the course of the last year, more than 4,000 people used the Chenoweth Trails facility.
For nearby residents who would like to visit Chenoweth Trails, the Light Foundation is holding an open house from 4-7p.m. on April 19. The facility is free for use for other nonprofits and youth organizations, for church fellowship, youth camps, field days, school field trips, etc. It also can be rented for class reunions, family reunions, weddings, corporate events and more. To RSVP, call 937-203-2653 or email the foundation at [email protected].
Light is especially excited about this event. He thinks it’s the perfect way for young adults to take part in a unique outdoor learning experience, being supervised and guided by a team of veteran hunters who share their love of the sport.
“This weekend the kids get to experience what hunting and exploring nature has to offer – hopefully topped off by bagging a big bird,” he said. “Getting to come back to the camp this spring and help establish the wildlife habitat, is a great opportunity to give back to the land. Making these lessons come full circle is an important part of the outdoor lifestyle and is what has attracted to the sport since I was a kid myself.”