Five hundred cars and a crowd fueled donations to IGNITE Community Center for young adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
About 5,000 people visited Ingersoll Rand’s North American Headquarters and Corporate Center in Davidson on Nov. 26 for Ray Evernham’s fourth annual AmeriCarna LIVE car show, presented by MSC Industrial Supply Co. and Autogeek.com.
A former NASCAR championship crew chief, Evernham said he saw a need when his son, Raymond John, 25, graduated from high school. Five years ago, he helped to start the IGNITE Community Center in Davidson, “a clubhouse where they can learn banking skills, driving skills, job skills, cooking skills and social skills so that they can live independently,” said Evernham.
One year after the center opened, the car shows began with about 250 cars. “We thought ‘the only thing we really know a lot about is cars, so to get everybody together for a car show makes sense to us,” he said.
This year the number of cars swelled to 500, with the $100,000-plus proceeds being donated to the Evernham Family — Racing for a Reason Foundation, to support the IGNITE Community Center.
In addition to helping the cause, many of the car owners enjoyed showing their pride and joy to anyone who would stop by for a chat. Charlotte resident Rob Smeltzer completed the display of his red, 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS with 128 feet of rope lights along with a model of his car in the engine compartment.
Amidst the chrome and red paint, a small, mirrored disco ball hung above the model car that was on a rotating stage above the chrome air filter. To some it resembled a dancing hall more than an engine compartment.
For other car owners, this was a fun way to enlighten others. Benjamin McCall, 14, drives in The Autism Sprint in Fayetteville and uses his father’s car to help spread awareness for autism while he races. The car is covered in puzzle pieces, and for a donation, a person with autism can be featured on one of the pieces, with the proceeds being donated to The Autism Society of North Carolina.
The McCall 270 Micro Sprint car won the IGNITE Choice award for Jody McCall, Benjamin’s dad.
As a spectator, Cornelius resident Molly Argenta, 8, leaned over, slightly inside the driver’s seat of the futuristic looking, 2016 Polaris Slingshot — a three-wheel, open cockpit vehicle — when her sister Emma Argenta said, “That should be in a movie.”
The girls’ mother, Cheryl Argenta and grandfather, Doug Dede, agreed the car looked like something from a Transformer movie.
“One of my favorite cars,” Evernham said, “is probably not the prettiest cars here. It’s a 1937 Chevrolet Pick-up truck. The man who has it, it was his dad’s truck, he grew up around the truck and has just kept it on the road for all these years. To me that is just as important as any Ferrari here.”
Evernham said he hopes more people will come next year.
“If they want to come to a celebration where people are really giving unselfishly, for a good cause, and more importantly making a difference in the community; either raising awareness about people on the autism spectrum or actually helping these people. This is an incredible place of love and unselfishness every year,” he said.