Lake Norman & Mooresville

Autism benefit set for July 23

Hollis Nixon has always been drawn to helping nonprofits and volunteering with the planning of fundraisers.

So when she found herself burned out with sales and corporate America in December, it seemed the natural step to launch a fundraising and event-consulting business: Hollis Productions.

With a focus on organizing events for nonprofits, Nixon, 32, who lives in Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood, doesn't mind working tirelessly to pull off successful events.

"You have to be passionate about the organization itself," said Nixon. "You have to believe in what you're promoting or you're dead in the water."

One charity Nixon is particularly interested in is Autism Services of Mecklenburg County, a private not-for-profit organization that offers residential and support services for N.C. residents with autism, traumatic brain injuries or other developmental disabilities. Unlike many national foundations and organizations, it doesn't have big budgets or limitless advertising dollars and has had to suspend several successful programs due to budget cuts, so it tries to make every dollar count.

"Nothing frustrates me more than when I send a $50 check somewhere and then get a $20 thank-you calendar back in the mail," said Nixon.

Autism Services of Mecklenburg County keeps a record of expenditures on its website, and that transparency, along with its activism, drew Nixon.

She has a one-year contract as a consultant with the charity and handles all its fundraising and events. After deciding to plan a large fundraising event to raise much-needed funds, Lake, Land and Lyrics was born. With the goal of raising $250,000, it will be the biggest fundraiser both Autism Services and Nixon will have executed.

Lake, Land and Lyrics will take place on Lake Norman on July 23 at Queens Landing in Mooresville. All proceeds will benefit Autism Services.

Studded with local celebrities, the event features a celebrity poker tournament and a concert headlined by Boyz II Men. It will kick off with dinner, with a choice from three different packages - a five-course dinner on the lake for $400, a four-course dinner on the lake for $300 and a three-course dinner on land for $200. All packages include a bar, tented seating at the concert and admission to see the celebrity poker tournament.

A ticket to participate in the poker tournament is $100, and for those who just want to see the concert and enjoy the bar, the concert package is $100.

"We didn't want to have another golf tournament or silent auction, we wanted something completely different," said Nixon, who said she tried to eliminate hidden costs and arena prices, so people would be satisfied with what they pay for.

Celebrities include former NBA star Sleepy Floyd, golf champion Lanny Wadkins, analyst for the San Francisco 49ers Gary Plummer, and many NFL stars like Mike Minter and Thomas Davis.

"We thought it would be really cool to get a few local celebrities so they could give back to the community, too," said Nixon.

Nixon said the planning for this event has been all-consuming.

"It's a different attack every day," she said. "It's been 24 hours a day."