Thursday, February 07, 2013

Evernham Presents $280,000 To Autism Society

Ray Evernham’s son, Ray J, sparked an idea to create a program for young people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. That idea turned into IGNITE, and it also set the wheels in motion for Evernham, a legendary NASCAR crew chief and team owner, to design and build his first custom hot rod project to fund the new program. 

Today, Ray Evernham and the Evernham Family Racing for a Reason presented $280,000 in proceeds from the recent auction of Evernham’s one-of-a-kind 1964 Plymouth Belvedere ForPly at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction to the Autism Society of North Carolina to benefit IGNITE, the new community center in Davidson, NC, co-founded by Evernham. 

IGNITE, operated by the Autism Society of North Carolina, is a membership-based community center for young adults with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. IGNITE provides members an opportunity to explore their talents and interests, develop social skills and become more involved in the local community. It is located in the Cotton Mill, in Davidson, NC. 

The ForPly, housed in the restored body of a near-half-century-old 1964 Plymouth Belvedere – the year, make and model that won the 1964 Daytona 500 and NASCAR Grand National Championship -- features a Kasey Kahne-driven Dodge racing powertrain, plus the driveline of a modern day race car that Evernham’s former team Evernham Motorsports built and raced at the Daytona 500. The one-of-a-kind ForPly, which was restored and built at the Ray Evernham Enterprises facility in Mooresville, NC, is the first custom design and build project by Evernham. Hot Rod magazine, which will feature the ForPly in an upcoming issue, recognized it as “One of the Top 10 Trendsetting Cars of SEMA Show 2012.” For more information on the ForPly, visit 

“We saw the need in the community for a program and a place where young adults with autism and Asperger’s can go not only to make friends and socialize, but to learn new job skills and life skills,” said Evernham, whose son, Ray J, now 21, has Asperger’s syndrome. “We looked at options around the region and there really weren’t any, so we were able to work with the Autism Society of North Carolina to create a unique new community called IGNITE.” 

Tracey Sheriff, CEO of the Autism Society of North Carolina, said the program has been very well received and there is interest in developing similar programs around the country. 

“Our thanks go out to Ray and his family for all they have done to help create the IGNITE program and inspire young adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome achieve new levels of success and independence. IGNITE would not have been possible without his support,” said Sheriff.

IGNITE is membership-based, so interested individuals must apply for membership. Young adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome, who have graduated from high school and are looking for ways to become involved in the community, may apply by contacting IGNITE's Director. Membership slots are limited, but the number of available slots is expected to expand as the program grows.  

Acceptance to IGNITE will be determined by the Director and staff of IGNITE. Likely candidates are those who have a desire to participate, ability to work in a group, and beginning independence skills. For more information, please email IGNITE's Director, Stacy Hultgren at



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