Photo Gallery | Evernham donates $280,000 for Autism Society; WBTV gets a peek at his car collection
MOORESVILLE - The latest creation turned out of the garage of a legendary NASCAR crew chief recently crossed the auction block at more than a quarter of a million dollars, but this crew chief doesn't have a dime to show for his work.
"Just because someone looks different or acts different doesn't mean that they don't have as much use as anybody else in the community," former NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham told WBTV.
Evernham's son Ray J, now 21, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. It's a disorder on the Autism spectrum.
"I had no idea what Asperger's was. It's been a learning curve," Evernham added.
And part of what Evernham learned is that he could use his skills in motor sports and car collecting to help those with high functioning Autism. Today he presented a check for $280,000 to fund the IGNITE program in Davidson.
"It serves people with high functioning Autism or Asperger's who are out in the community, graduated from high school. They can be working or not working. Most of them are underemployed or not employed," said IGNITE Director Stacy Hultgren. "If somebody is working towards college we help them with that, if some body's working towards a job we work on that, so it really depends. Each individual is very different."
The car built by Evernham and crew is a '64 Plymouth Belvedere on the outside, but modern muscle and menace inside. The car was sold on a recent Barrett-Jackson Auction for $180,000, another donor pledged $100,000, and Evernham gave it away to help people like his own son.
"They struggle each day to fit into our world socially and we wanted to give Asperger's and Autistic people, young adults, a place where they could go, have a clubhouse where they could mingle, it could open up options. There could be some job training, skills, just kind of a clubhouse that would help them be good members of the community."
The IGNITE program is only three weeks old, so far it is 16 clients.
"This donation is the program, this donation has enabled us to start. We have so much that we are planning and would like to do with that money. The Autism Society really appreciates that donation because it's very hard to start a program," Hultgren added.
The announcement was made at Evernham's race shop in Mooresville. Evernham graciously allowed WBTV to take a few pictures of some of the cars in his extensive personal collection.