Getting R.E.A.L. at Camp Vohokase
Vohokase (Va-ho-a-kiss) is the Cheyenne word for light. It seems only fitting that New England Patriot Hall-of-Famer Matt Light would choose this name for his camp, which has proven to be a beacon of light for many of the youth that have gone through it. The name also pays homage to the fact that the first-ever youth camp was held on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and many Native youth participated.
In 2001, he was drafted from Purdue University to the New England Patriots, winning a Super Bowl in the first season. His grandmother always told him “to whom much is given, much is required.” Matt knew he’d been given an incredible opportunity, and he wanted to do something with it. He started his nonprofit organization the same year, aiming to educate and help young people navigate their way through life.
Matt and his wife Susie started the Light Foundation in 2001 with the mission to engage underserved youth through experiences in the outdoors. Each year, 16 young men gather at Chenoweth Trails in Ohio for Camp Vohokase to learn life-skills through hard work, fun and life-changing outdoor experiences. The organization’s cost-free programing is supported by generous donors and the fact that Matt and his family were able to purchase what’s turned into the 600-acre Chenoweth Trails Ranch.
The Light Foundation’s first and flagship program is Camp Vohokase a 10-day summer camp, which is a 4-year commitment, starting in 8th grade going until graduation. The program keeps up with the students during the year, hosting weekly check-ins and yearly community service projects. Feeling a close connection to the camp, many come back as counselors after graduation.
The model at Camp Vohokase is R.E.A.L: Responsible, Ethical, Accountable, Leaders. Asked about the importance of this value system, Matt said, “values placed on responsibility, ethics and accountability put you in a place to become a good leader. They’re the real building blocks for success."
Teaming up with GoPro was profound for Matt as he expressed how some of the organization’s donors, supporters and even board members hadn’t had the chance to see what they do in action. Being able to show the youth and their first-hand experiences and ah-ha moments is priceless.