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Parents aim to build residential farm for area’s autistic adults

GENOA – It’s every parent’s goal: to see their children healthy, happy and with a purpose.

It’s difficult under the best of circumstances, but even more so when the child is an adult with autism.

“Once the parents get older and pass away, who is going to take care of the children?” asked Ginnifer Daugherty, whose brother has autism.

iMatter Farms, a group of local parents of autistic children, is hoping to develop a residential farm for autistic adults. If they can’t establish it here in DeKalb County, the group’s treasurer Lorna Lingwai said they’ll hopefully do it somewhere in northern Illinois.

“We are hoping to find a farmer to donate 10 to 15 acres and go from there,” said Lingwai, the mother of a 30-year-old son with autism. “I would hope to be able to find someone with a heart.”

iMatter Farms chairman Lisa Nolley said the proposed farm is modeled after one in Ohio, which she and her husband, Dave – the parents of 20-year-old twins with autism – discovered by accident.

They were checking the Internet when they discovered Bittersweet Farms, which was founded by Bettye Ruth Kay in 1983 near Toledo. A pioneer in the treatment of autism, Kay based her farm on Somerset Court in England, the first of its kind.

“We went and visited the farm a few years ago,” Lisa Nolley said. “It was very quiet and serene. The people who lived on the farm worked on the farm with supervision. We took the boys with us and they were extremely happy. I talked to the director and I said, ‘I want to live here.’ ”

Nolley said the farm has since started a program in Indiana.

“We are trying to bring this concept to Illinois,” she said.

Before the group can do anything, it must establish itself as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. To raise money for the application fee, a fundraiser will be held today at Lingwai’s home, 301 S. Emmett St. in Genoa. Vendors such as Tupperware, Avon, Tastefully Simple and Pampered Chef will sell their items and donate all or a portion of the proceeds to the group. There also will be a bake sale.

Once the group is established as a nonprofit organization, Daugherty said it can begin seeking donations and holding official fundraisers.

“We’re going to fund this with private funds,” she said. “No government money.”

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