BTN LiveBIG: Matt Light leading by example
Matt Light had a pretty good year in 2001. He was drafted out of Purdue by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Draft (48th overall) and went to work on a team that was supposedly rebuilding.
That year, the Patriots shocked the world and won the Super Bowl. For Light, it was a dream come true. But he knew that the championship was only starting to open doors for him, and others.
“It’s my first year in the NFL, I sign with a team that nobody thought would do anything and then we go out and win a championship,” Light remembers. “I realized the dream of any football player: winning the Super Bowl. But that success got me thinking about how I turn that good fortune into something that serves a bigger purpose than just winning football games.”
That belief – that there is more to life than a Super Bowl ring – sparked a conversation between Light and some of his closest family and friends.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the outdoors and enjoyed the lessons learned from my time at camp with friends and family,” he said. “So, we started developing what became the Light Foundation.”
The goal of the Light Foundation is to give at-risk kids the opportunity to learn about the outdoors and receive mentoring. The foundation’s Chenoweth Trails facility, which hosts an outdoor leadership camp called Camp Vohokase every summer, sits on more than 400 acres of land in Greenville, Ohio. A hand-selected group of young men from around the country are taught the values of hard work, responsibility and accountability. Light and his team keep in contact with these kids throughout the year to provide mentoring and support.
Despite the fact that Light is now a three-time Super Bowl champion, his life was not without challenges; Light has played his entire career while battling Crohn’s Disease. After 13 surgeries, many of which were because of Crohn’s, Light feels his personal experience drove him to help others.
“When you go through tough times – and I’ve had to struggle through a lot in my own life – it makes you stop and think about what’s truly important,” Light continued. “You learn things through experiences. Had I been in a situation where I was the biggest guy, and things came easy to me, I’m not sure I would have gone this path. That isn’t how I ended up where I’m at today.”
A few weeks ago, Light hosted the signature event that helps raise funds for his foundation. The Matt Light Celebrity Shootout is an exciting day of outdoor adventure, including fly fishing, ATV driving and a shooting course.
“Our celebrity shootout is an event we came up with that’s unique – it’s basically golfing with a shotgun,” Light said. “It’s a foursome like golf, but instead of taking your clubs out there you’re shooting a shotgun at a whole bunch of targets.
“It’s not your typical charity event with a dinner and golf,” he continued. “Even when you miss in the shooting world, you feel validated because something goes boom.”
This year’s event also grew in the most important area: dollars raised to support the foundation. According to Light, donations and money spent at the auction were up 12 percent from the previous year, earning $600,000 in one day.
To learn more about the Light Foundation, Chenoweth Trails and the other great work Matt is doing, check out the foundation’s website.