GREENVILLE – Lessons learned at Camp Vohokase in Darke County have led to some of the Light Foundation’s greatest success stories here and across the country.
The Light Foundation, which was created by Greenville native and former New England Patriot Matt Light, is in the final days of this year’s youth outdoor leadership camp at the foundation’s 400-plus acre facility, Chenoweth Trails, near Greenville. This year the 10-day camp brought in 16 boys from Darke County, where Light was raised; Massachusetts, where Light now calls home; Rhode Island, where Light holds his signature fundraising event; and New Orleans, where Light has worked with former teammate, friend and Super Bowl champion Drew Brees and his foundation.
“Overall we’re having a great time,” Light said. “These guys have put in a lot of work this week.”
In order to instill discipline and drive in the boys, Light and his fellow camp leaders demand a lot from the youth. They have chores and other responsibilities but also are rewarded with activities such as paint balling, dirt biking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, rifle and shotgun shooting, archery and a trip to a Dayton Dragons game.
“It literally is non-stop every day,” Light said. “It’s just about spending time together and competing in certain things and being young men and having fun and then tackling some issues.”
Coming together from locations across the country, the 16 boys bring a diverse range of experiences to camp. They’ve had struggles in the past, but through the camp they learn to overcome obstacles and become leaders for their communities.
“I started off at camp like I was kind of real reserved, real quiet, wasn’t as confident as I am now but with the help of Nick (Schuckman) and Matt and in general I’ve improved a lot over the years, and now I’m a senior and I’m one of the main leaders at the camp, I think,” Ethan Richardson, a senior from Providence, Rhode Island, said. “I’ve been a lot more vocal, a lot more confident in myself as far as making decisions and stuff like that.”
Richardson is one of four camp seniors from Providence, Rhode Island, along with Dennilson DaRosa, Ellijah McLean and Rashad Rockett.
“They all four have come a long way, and they’re doing some amazing things,” Light said.
The group has been very successful in using skills learned at the camp to become better leaders at home, Light said. Richardson, for example, now is one of the dormitory leaders at his prep school and a captain of his basketball team. Rockett has gotten himself back on track inside and outside school and become one of the top high school football players in Rhode Island after basically failing out of school, Light said.
“He’s climbed one hell of a mountain,” Light said.
And now for a second time the camp features a group of four boys from Darke County. This year’s group of four freshmen hails from Arcanum, Greenville, Tri-Village and Versailles.
“It’s great for us because we’ve got so many people in this community that help us and make this all possible,” Light said. “And while we want this to be a cultural leadership camp where kids come in from all over the country, we always want to be able to have a presence with kids right here in this area.”
One of those freshmen, Trent Turvene from Greenville, is happy to be in the program so he can develop into a better leader for the foundation and at home in addition to making his mother proud.
“It makes me happy to be in the program,” Turvene said. “I prayed to God to get in this program because I’ve never had something like this happen in my life. It makes my Mom proud of me and everything else. I know I’ve done some wrong stuff in the past to my Mom, but it makes her proud, and that’s all I’m about … just making my Mom proud.”
Turvene’s favorite parts of the camp have been the community service with projects at Trinity Wesleyan Church and Brethren Retirement Community.
“Helping making them happy, seeing the smiles on their faces,” he said.
At Trinity Wesleyan Church the boys helped lead games at a vacation bible school. At Brethren Retirement Community they played bingo with residents and then served them lunch.
“Once you get that servant-type mentality, it can do a lot of things for you,” Light said. “It can open your eyes up to understand that, hey, my position may be rough or I may want a lot of other things but giving back and spending time with people if pretty important.”
The boys also have visited Greenville Technology, Inc. and MIX 107.7, gone to The Academy in Greenville and spent a lot of time outside taking part in various activities. One day they learned survival skills such as making a fire and building a shelter.
“That was stuff … I’m from the city so I didn’t think I would really like it … but then we tried it, and it was a pretty fun time,” Richardson said.
Even though the camp leaders occasionally have to remind the boys what’s need and what’s important, for the most part they do a good job of showing leadership and accountability, skills that help them become better leaders at camp and at home, Light said.
“We don’t need to jump on them too much because they have to police themselves,” he said.
Camp Vohokase will wrap up on Thursday as the seniors graduate and all the boys head home. Light and the foundation’s other leaders then will turn their attention to their next big activity in Darke County, the Gauntlet 5K adventure run on Aug. 8 at Chenoweth Trails.
“The Gauntlet is a great day to come out and really see it for everything that (Chenoweth Trails) is,” Light said.