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Bouncing balls boost Our Neighbor fundraising efforts
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Charlie Miller, left, and Nick Cain bounce a basketball between them Saturday morning at Milton Martin Honda during the Big Bounce "One Bounce at a Time for Independence" benefitting Our Neighbor Inc.

For Nick Cain, a 21-year-old born with a rare genetic disorder known as Costello syndrome, life has changed since he moved in with other young adults with disabilities in a house on Gainesville's Prior Street.

"I've been there since October 2009, and I've been loving it ever since," Cain said Saturday. "You get more independence there. It's been different."

Cain was among dozens of people bouncing basketballs Saturday all over Gainesville to raise money and awareness for Our Neighbor, a local nonprofit that works to provide services and programs for young adults with disabilities.

"It's one bounce at a time for independence," said Our Neighbor board member Jeanne Hanlin, an organizer of Saturday's fundraiser.

Hanlin was at Milton Martin Honda, one of 10 locations where balls were being bounced.

"It's very visible, and because it's so spread out, you get the message out faster," Hanlin said.

Our Neighbor has grown considerably since it first began with Randy's House in 2005. The house was named for Randy Owens, a young man with disabilities who founded the organization with his mother, Marty Owens.

"We thought that would probably be the only house we would have," Marty Owens said. "But then we saw there was such a need for young adults to have places for independence, with some oversight. As more people hear about us, we're seeing that the need is greater than we ever realized."

The group is now working on its third house and has 12 total residents. A used bookstore run by Our Neighbor soon will relocate to the Gainesville square. Another 150 people are involved with the group through its work and socialization initiatives, Hanlin said.

"Our mission is to provide programs and services, but it's also to tear down the barriers," she said.
While the organization has achieved tax-exempt 501(3)(c) status, currently it still relies solely on individual contributions and has received no grant funding.

"We are truly grass roots," Hanlin said. "We don't have the major name recognition, and we're also working with a group that's not highly visible."

"When you ask to raise money for children, that has an impact," Hanlin said. "Well, children grow up ... and they still need our help."

Cain said he has found a new family at Randy's House.

"We say we're brothers from different mothers," he said.

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