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Tragedy Leads to Charity: Family Honors Newton South Grad with 'Luke's Lights'

Nineteen-year-old Lucas Voss-Kernan tragically died in May 2012 while on a road trip with friends. As a tribute to his "light", friends and family have started a charity to help people in Kenya.

After visiting Kenya in 2010, graduate Lucas Voss-Kernan always remembered the laughter of the Kenyan family he met – their sense of togetherness and happiness amidst what, to many Americans, might seem like very tough living conditions. 

Luke, who was building a school in Kenya with the non-profit organization Free the Children, spent a day with a Maasai family during his time in Africa. The dark, smoky dung hut housed a family with eight children -- many of who had to walk barefoot for over an hour to attend school. 

Volunteering in Africa was just one example of Luke's life motto to "Dream big. Do bigger."

"His ability to see the light inside everyone defined who he was and how he lived in the world," says Gisela Voss, Luke's mother. 

Tragically, while on a cross-country trip with friends. Luke, just 19, passed away after accidentally falling from a structure he had been climbing on.

Some might say that Luke's light has gone out. His family and friends, though, are keeping that light shining through a charity project called Luke’s Lights.

Through Luke's Lights, Luke's family hopes to raise $30,000 to send 3,000 solar lights to Kenyan communities that are off the electrical grid. For every $10 donation, one solar-powered light will be sent to the Kipsigis and Maasai communities (among others) in the Narok South District of Kenya.

"A tribute that honors Luke's light is like a salve for our family. It shows us the way out of a sadness and darkness of heart we feared could overwhelm us," says Gisela Voss.

Solar lights are essential to the health and well being of the people who live there because most of them currently use kerosene lamps, which produce dangerous, toxic fumes that irritate eyes and poison lungs, according Maggi Alexander, a family friend who is helping with the project. These solar lights, says Alexander, will allow Kenyan children to live, play, and do their homework in the light of their huts.

Unite-to-Light is the non-profit organization that produces the solar lights and Free the Children is in charge of distributing them to local communities. When volunteer groups from Free the Children go to Kenya this summer, they’ll bring these solar lights with them to hand-deliver and show residents how to use their new lights. 

"The 'Luke's Light' movement is a sweet star and sunlit path towards healing," Gisela Voss says.

To make a donation to the Luke’s Lights fund, mail a tax-deductable check made out to "Unite-to-Light" and send to Maggi Alexander, 62 Elmore Street, Newton, MA 02459 or donate securely online.

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