Visions of Hope kicked off Autism Awareness Month with a “Light It Up Blue” event in downtown Farmington last week followed by a cruise-in car show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m on Saturday on the parking lot of the St. Francois County Courthouse Annex on North Washington Street.
Downtown was decorated in blue balloons and many businesses filled their windows with blue products, streamers and pictures in support.
Despite the abnormally cold temperatures many showed up for the car show displaying their cars and enjoying snacks from the food cart.
The cruise-in was a lead-in event to the third annual “Light it up blue – Autos 4 Autism” scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 21 at the Bonne Terre Drag Strip, located at 7640 Black Berry Lane in Bonne Terre. In the case of rain, the event will take place April 28.
Proceeds from the car, motorcycle and truck show, plus the drag racing event, will support Visions of Hope, a vocational and social skills training program for individuals with autism ages 15 – and up to prepare them for employment opportunities in the community.
“The reason that we are here is to provide vocational training to people with autism,” Founding Executive Director of Visions of Hope Luann Honerkamp said. “They come through the program and they get 120 hours of work experience. They wash, dry, steam, tag clothes, they keep the store clean and they help us with inventory. So they are learning a variety of skills.”
Training is provided through a real-world work experience of Dress 2 Impress, the organization’s upscale resale shop located at 117 E. Columbia Street in Farmington.
Honerkamp said the community can support this cause by donating, shopping at the resale store, sponsoring events or volunteering.
“Most of those in the program have never had a job and it is something they can put on their resume,” Honerkamp said. “That is why we are here. We do not charge them any money, we rely on fundraisers, donations and grants.”
Honerkamp said they graduated 24 last May and and currently have nine in the program. As she introduced interns Garrett and Jacob you could see the importance of the program in her eyes.
“Garrett is one of the reasons we decided to do this,” Honerkamp said. “Him and his brother both have autism, they are my God sons and I didn’t know what was going to happen to them when they got out of school because there really are very few resources.”
Being a former special education teacher, Honerkamp knew this was a perfect idea for her family and for the community.
According to Honerkamp the dream is to branch out in the future to other jobs such as landscaping in order to teach other skills and give the interns options for their futures.
For motor enthusiasts, there’s no better way to help the cause than to participate in the “Autos 4 Autism” event.
The event features first place trophies for each car show division, plus guaranteed $500 payouts for ET Class and Comp and $1,000 payout for Super Comp in the drag racing events.
The cost for admission is $10 per person. Children ages 12 and under are free.
New this year is a monster truck car crush with High Roller – owned by Jeff Krekeler – taking place at noon.
Also new this year is the opportunity to win a 2018 Dodge Charger Daytona Edition, courtesy of Auto Plaza Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram of Farmington. The car was on display Saturday during the cruise in.
Tickets are $100 each, or $300 for four tickets. At least 500 tickets must be sold for the car to be given away. If not, the giveaway will be a 50/50 drawing from the amount sold.
Plans are also underway to once again include a car/motorcycle/truck show. Categories include cars from 1979 and older; cars from 1980 and newer; trucks from 1979 and older; trucks from 1980 and newer; cruiser motorcycles; sport bike motorcycles and special interest.
The “Best of Show” award will be determined by the kids’ votes.
In the drag racing portion of the day, double entry is allowed with first round buybacks (one-half price of racing class fee).
The cost of entry for motorcycles is a donation of $40, along with the Jr. Dragster class with a $40 donation entry fee. ET class is $60 donation with a guaranteed $500 payout – footbrake only, no transbrake or boxes allowed. Comp class is $60 donation with guaranteed $500 payout and is for 9.49 and faster, transbrake allowed but no boxes allowed.
Super Comp is an entry fee of a $70 with a guaranteed $1,000 payout. The Super Comp is 7.49 and faster and no restrictions.
Platinum sponsors included: Auto Plaza Group, Cam Thomas Racing, H&A Auto Sales-Jim Gross, KREI/J98, B104/KFMO, Marler Towing, High Roller-Jeff Krekeler and Ozark Auto Sales/White Weddings.
For more information about the program, to purchase a ticket or for more information, visit Dress 2 Impress at 117 E. Columbia St. in Farmington, visit www.visionsofhoperesale.com or look for Visions of Hope on Facebook.