Press Releases

IGNITE Community Center Celebrates First Anniversary


Charlotte’s Only Community Center for Young Adults with Autism and Asperger’s Serving Members with Education Programs, Job Training, Social Networking and Fun

Recent AmeriCarna LIVE Car Show Raised $46,000 to Benefit IGNITE

MOORESVILLE, NC – Members of IGNITE, who before this community center opened last year had never met or spent much time in social settings, were proud to host guests at the first anniversary celebration in Davidson, NC, where they spend time working, learning and laughing together.

All of the members of IGNITE have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning Autism (HFA), which means many have led isolated lives with few friends, limited social interaction and little self-confidence about their prospects to have fulfilling jobs and friendships.

Until the opening of IGNITE helped sparked hope for them.

IGNITE was founded by Ray Evernham, former NASCAR championship crew chief, team owner, and current ESPN broadcaster, whose 22-year-old son Ray J has Asperger’s. When Evernham couldn’t find quality programs and activities for his son, he turned to the Autism Society of North Carolina to create a solution.

Housed in the former Davidson Cotton Mill building, IGNITE offers activities, skills training, and educational workshops that foster social, financial, educational, and employment independence for its members, who are in their late teens and early 20s. In just under 12 months, it has 30 members of the program and many success stories, including members who have:

  • Gotten regular jobs in the community
  • Developed friendships for the first time and regularly participate in social and group activities
  • Returned to community college and nursing school to pursue their post-secondary education
  • Learned to live independently

“We have had a tremendous response in our first year, and are so proud of the accomplishments of our members,” said Stacy Hultgren, director of IGNITE. “We are continually expanding our program offering to meet the needs of our members as they grow and evolve. And, we’re working to accommodate even more members in 2014.”

For Mike Hauck, 25, joining IGNITE has made an incredible difference in his life.

“Now I have friends, I’m learning different things, I go out and do stuff,” said Hauck, while hanging out in the IGNITE lounge with one of his new buddies. “I’m learning to understand social cues and reactions better, and that’s helping me a lot. I used to just sit at home doing nothing. Now my friends pick me up to go out.”

Hauck excels at repairing computers and also has a passion for video production. He produced a surprise video for Evernham in honor of the event, taping the interviews with IGNITE members, handling the editing and all the final production. And, he’s completed his A+ and MCTS certifications, and hoping that will turn into a job in computer repair.

Evernham recently hosted the AmeriCarna LIVE charity car show to raise awareness and funds for IGNITE. The event featured hundreds of classic, custom, and celebrity cars on Ingersoll Rand corporate campus in Davidson, NC, on Saturday, Nov. 30. The event raised $46,000 for IGNITE, and Evernham was honored to present a check to IGNITE during the anniversary celebration.

“I’m very thankful for all the car owners and fans who came out for AmeriCarna LIVE to celebrate our car culture and support IGNITE,” said Evernham. “And to see how these fundraising efforts create change in the lives of young adults at IGNITE is truly inspiring. I’m so proud of the accomplishments of all of the IGNITE members this year and really look forward to seeing all that they do in the future.”

IGNITE is a program of the Autism Society of North Carolina. For more information on IGNITE, visit
(By Debby Robinson)