Ray Evernham, Founder of Program (IGNITE) Helping Young Adults in NC with Autism

The CDC says one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, but one program hopes to make a difference in the lives of those diagnosed.

That program is "IGNITE," teaching young adults with autism life skills such as cooking, exercise, and job skills.

"I would say that it is loads of fun. I started really liking it a whole bunch. I get to socialize with different people that I haven't met before," said Landyn Johns, who is an IGNITE participant.

Peg Adamczyk says she saw a change with her child, who now has a job. "It's been a godsend to us; she learned lifeskills here, how to interact with others, she learned about money, there was a money management class, she made friends," said Adamczyk.

"IGNITE" is very personal to founder and former NASCAR crew chief, Ray Evernham.

"We really honestly knew there was a need, but didn't know how big of a need. My son, Raymond John is 25 years old and he is on the autism spectrum. He is an Asperger's child and what we found out is once he got through high school, and did all those things, there weren't a lot of programs to help him transition in the community and really help him learn about lifeskills," said Evernham.

Mindy Govan is IGNITE's director, working directly with participants daily.

"As the friendships start to develop or even just that sense of belonging, you see people holding their heads higher," said Govan.

Evernham helps to fund "IGNITE," with others, so that it is free of charge to families. "It is primarily funded through Evernham Family Racing for a Reason through the Autism Society and we have several donors who helped," said Govan.

The impact has been huge with some finding jobs or becoming mentors. David Camilo has been in the program from the beginning and is now a mentor with some of the classes with IGNITE. "It's a wonderful experience to have the new members look up to me and they've inspired me to become a good leader," said Camilo.

Johns has really enjoyed making new friends in IGNITE. "This program is really the best program I think I ever been in," said Johns.

Garrett Sycamore hasn't been in IGNITE long, but he hopes families with a loved one with autism will try it. "It could possibly change your life for the better," said Sycamore.

"If we can help these children, these young adults, have a better life, one day at a time, they can save the world.

IGNITE is located in Davidson, North Carolina (near Mooresville and Charlotte). The program can always use donations of either school or work supplies, such as notebooks and binders, or gift cards to purchase recreational equipment and kitchen supplies.

To learn more about IGNITE or to donate, please visit http://www.autismsociety-nc.org/index.php/ignitedavidson or IGNITE's homepage: http://ignite-davidson.org/

--- Spectrum News ---