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A Light it up for Autism Cruise-In will be held April 6.

The car show will take place in the St. Francois County Courthouse Annex parking lot and will benefit the Visions of Hope Training Program at of Dress 2 Impress on Columbia Street in downtown Farmington. This program provides vocational and social skills training to individuals challenged with an autism spectrum disorder. 

Vehicles of all makes and models are invited to attend the event and a “Best in Show” trophy will be awarded to the most outstanding vehicle. The award will be given based on votes from the event attendees paying 1$ per vote.

The benefit will have two food trucks, free kids games, and prizes.

There will also be a “Selfie Scavenger Hunt” where event-goers visit participating downtown businesses and take a picture of themselves at or in the store near autism awareness decor or signs. They will then post the selfies on the Visions of Hope Facebook page using the hashtag #lightitup4autism.

Each selfie tagged will be an entry for a prize of a $25 gift certificate to Dress 2 Impress and a free 2019 Autos 4 Autism hoodie.

Downtown Farmington businesses are invited to participate with sales and specials the day of the event, as well as a storefront decoration contest to highlight autism awareness.

In case of inclement weather, there is a contingency plan where there won’t be a car show but the food trucks will be parked in back parking lot of the Dress 2 Impress shop and a prize wheel will be inside the store with Toys 4 Hope.

Jessica Harmon, co-founder of Visions of Hope and retail manager of Dress 2 Impress, said last year was their first year for the downtown cruise-in and the local merchants were great participants in decorating their storefronts for autism awareness.

“It is so wonderful to be part of such a caring community," she said. 

Harmon explained her devotion to the cause saying, “I have two awesome sons who are on the autism spectrum and Visions of Hope has been a blessing not only to our family but for so many other families like ours. We truly appreciate the support of our community from donors ... to shoppers, clients, event sponsors, and more."  

Visions of Hope Training Program exists to empower individuals with autism through vocational and social opportunities, according to Luann Honerkamp, founding executive director of Visions of Hope. The Vocational Training Program is specifically designed to provide valuable work experience and social opportunities to individuals, ages 15 years and up, on the autism spectrum.

“Our goal is to increase their ability to gain competitive employment and to help them find their purpose," she said.

Honerkamp said the training program provides an unpaid 120-hour internship at Dress 2 Impress. Interns attend workshops, go on field trips to local businesses, learn skills needed to work in a retail store, build a portfolio that includes a resume and skills mastered, as well as the opportunity to practice mock interviews. Internships are specifically designed to focus on each intern’s strengths, as well a, discovering avenues to overcome challenges.

“Visions of Hope is in its third year of providing internships and has been blessed to have already graduated 30 interns and expects to graduate another eight this year," she said. "We simply could not provide these much-needed services without the amazing support of our local community.”

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Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com.

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