Car show fuels fight against autism

First Posted: 8/23/2014

FAIRMONT — A souped-up, Betty Boop-themed Dodge Charger turned a few heads during the third annual Showin’ Off for Autism car and motorcycle show at Fairmont Community Park on Saturday.

The color-coded car was plastered with hand-crafted decals, accessories and other touches inspired by the 1930s cartoon character.

“When I got it, it was just a plain red car,” said Sue Ward, the vehicle’s owner. “It gets a lot of looks.”

The car was decorated by Ward’s son, Shannon, who runs Out of Sight Customs in Leland. Other examples of Shannon’s handiwork were on display during the event, which ran from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and raised more than $1,500 for the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Robeson County chapter.

This year’s event raised more than twice the amount of money collected in 2013 and surpassed organizer Erick Freeman’s initial goal of $900.

“I’m very happy with how it went,” Freeman said.

Founded in 1970, the Autism Society of North Carolina provides various services and support for the families of children affected by autism. According to Robeson County chapter leader Wendy Britt, one out of every 52 children across the state is diagnosed with the disorder.

“There are a lot of kids with autism in Robeson County who don’t get the support that they need,” Britt said. “We’re fully supported by donations and fundraisers. Events like this help tremendously.”

Previously a motorcycle show, this year marked the first time auto enthusiasts were invited to flaunt their cars and trucks at the park. According to Freeman, more than 60 people registered to display vehicles during the event. The registration fee was $15.

The event featured food vendors, contests, activities for children and music provided by DJ Kev Hunt.

Freeman said that things got off to a slow start and felt that the early turnout may have been hampered by the 90-degree weather and overlapping scheduling of another Robeson County car show, the Rediscover Downtown Lumberton group’s monthly Cruise In event, which also took place on Saturday.

According to Freeman, the vehicles started “pouring in” at about 2 p.m.

“I’m very happy with how it went,” he said. “I hope to do it bigger and better next year.”

For information about the Autism Society of North Carolina, visit The Robeson County chapter of the organization meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton.