Friday, June 24, 2011

New England Patriot Matt Light Kicks Off Annual Outdoor Leadership Camp at Chenoweth Trails Facility in Greenville, Ohio

The Light Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2001 by three-time SuperBowl Champion and New England Patriot Matt Light, is gearing up for its annual Outdoor Leadership Camp. The 10-day program will be held June 20th through June 29th, 2011, at Camp Vohokase, located on the Foundation’s 400-plus acre facility, Chenoweth Trails, in Greenville, Ohio.

The Camp brings together 16 boys from four different communities across the country: Greenville, Ohio, where Light was raised; Rhode Island, where he holds his annual fundraising event; West Lafayette, Indiana, where he played at Purdue University, and Nashville, Tennessee, where a local youth organization looking to build leadership into an existing program reached out to participate.

Light says the boys will participate in trail-based activities that include hunting, fishing and archery; they’ll clean the Greenville Community Park and help build a stone waterfall fountain there as part of their community service project; learn how to make their bows from Matt’s father, Bill Light; visit several area businesses during career day, and engage in “fireside chats” about goals and expectations. They’ll also enjoy a Camp Yale ropes course, a paint ball competition, go-kart races, and a dirt bike riding program. “The main goal of the Camp is to break down prejudices and barriers,” says Light. “These kids all come from different places and have different backgrounds, but ultimately, they realize they have a lot in common, like family issues, and peer pressure,” he adds. “When they find common ground and learn from one another, it’s a great experience for all of us.”

The youth who attend admit the conditions are “rustic,” to say the least, but many admit the experience is life-changing. “Since the first camp I've learned a lot about myself. I was quiet, timid, and narcissistic,” says Dan L. from Rhode Island, “but being able to interact with people who were going through what I was helped me come out of a shell and be more social with my peers. I’ve also learned how to help my friends and fellow campers deal with their problems,” he adds, “and get through life without seeing others with ‘thorns’ in their eyes.”

The conditions are pretty nice by camp standards, with electricity and hot running water. Two years ago, canvas tents were replaced by domed structures called yurts, where the kids stay, and last year, a construction company donated the lumber and labor to build adjoining outdoor decks off the yurts, where they can gather and unwind. Last summer, co-hosts Dean Marisco and Derek Stearns, and their team from cable TV’s “Do It Yourself” network (DIY) constructed a state-of-the-art cooking area and fire pit in the Camp, complete with high-end kitchen appliances from Viking. The total value of the project was nearly $200,000, and donors from all over contributed the supplies and support to get the job done. A segment shot on site aired on DIY’s “Indoors Out” show this past May.

“For the entire crew to come in and do that build out for us was like a dream come true for me,” Light adds. “My goal is to make the Chenoweth Trails facility a world-class site for our Foundation, and we continue to take steps in that direction.”

Light’s plan for Chenoweth Trails continues to evolve, as does the infrastructure he’s begun to put in place. He’s added a parking lot, an amphitheatre, and a pond, and is always looking for ways to upgrade and expand it moving forward. He holds other year-round community events like a pumpkin festival, and a 5K run, but his overall goal is to support larger nonprofit groups’ efforts, and impact more kids from around the country. This spring, the facility was used by the Boy Scouts and the YMCA for their own events.

For Light, all the hard work is beginning to pay off. He’s worked years to develop an outdoor leadership camp and a series of programs that reflect his vision for the Light Foundation; its mission, to instill and augment the values of responsibility, accountability and hard work by providing youth with unique outdoor learning experiences that assist them in meeting, and exceeding all of their goals.

Four young men from Rhode Island who have realized their goals -- the first “class” to complete four years at Camp Vohokase -- will be graduating from the outdoor leadership camp at the end of the upcoming session in an official ceremony. All have plans for what they admit is a much brighter future, and Light and his team from the Foundation couldn’t be more proud.

“It’s so great to see these guys come full circle. They all had potential, but now they’ve realized that potential, and they know the sky’s the limit if they stay on track,” he adds. “When we see them serve has mentors for the younger kids, we know we’ve really made a difference.”

For the Light Foundation, making a difference is what it’s all about. “We want to be a beacon for charitable organizations, athletes and youth,” notes Light, “to work hard, put their best foot forward, and strive to become champions in the game of life.”

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