GREENVILLE – The Light Foundation’s youth wild turkey hunt, which began with just a couple kids, celebrated its 10th year this past weekend with 16 boys and girls venturing out into the woods of Darke County.
“This is a big one for us,” Greenville native and Light Foundation founder Matt Light said. “This is our 10th year for the youth wild turkey hunt, and we’ve just seen this thing continue to be not just a fun weekend but a very educational one where these kids have had to work hard. It’s hard to juggle everything that young people have today when it comes to their athletics or their academics or whatever else they have going on in their lives, and for us we ask a lot. They have to fill out an essay question. They then get graded on that essay question. The top 16 get to be here for this weekend.”
Selected this year to participate in the 10th annual youth wild turkey hunt were Brock Barga, Oakley Brubaker, Milan Denlinger, Joel Gehret, Jenna Godown, Caleb Hartman, Ray Keller, Devin Kuhbander, Graham Milligan, Isaac Mills, Luke Perreira, Nathan Perreira, Wyatt Rammel, Hope Schaaf, Alli Whiting and Austin Wolf.
All the selected hunters are Darke County residents between the ages of 12 and 17. To be selected for the hunt they had to fill out an application and write an essay about peer pressure and decision making.
“This is the opportunity for these kids to see full circle how everything came about,” said Light, who won three Super Bowls as a member of the New England Patriots. “So these kids are going to realize tonight that a lot of people put in a lot of effort from scouting to land ownership to everything else and they’re going to get to meet the land owners who make this really possible. And then from there they’re going to get to meet their guides, who are going to be taking them in the woods, and they’re going to be spending a lot of time with these guides having fun, learning things and just being a part of what’s really cool, and that’s hearing a bird gobbling in the wild.”
Preston Deeter, who was part of the Light Foundation’s first youth wild turkey hunt, spoke to the youth during a kick-off ceremony on Friday night. Deeter participated in the first four annual hunts and spoke about how much the event has grown since his days as a participant.
Now, instead of just a hunt, the annual event includes a kick-off dinner that gives the youth hunters a chance to meet the land owners, spotters and guides who make the hunt possible. They also are given safety tips before heading out to Chenoweth Trails, the Light Foundations’ 400-plus acre facility.
The weekend included hunting on Saturday and Sunday mornings along with time for activities and bonding in camp.
“The kids aren’t just the only benefactors,” Light said. “All of us guides, we love being here. The work that we do with the kids back in camp whether it’s teaching them how to make a wing bone call or introducing them to some other fun activity or a woods walk or whatever it is they’re doing, they have a blast.”
Guides come from all over Ohio, Kentucky and New York to help the youth on their hunting excursions. Local land owners, spotters and other Light Foundation staff members also help make the weekend possible.
“Any time you’ve done anything for 10 years it just shows you’ve got an amazing group of people who make it possible,” Light said. “You don’t do something like this at the level that we’ve done it for as long as we’ve done it without just an amazing dedication from so many. Our land owners, our spotters, our guides, our board members – everybody that pulls this thing together – they’re really good at what they do.”