Marty Owens clasps her son’s shoulder and looks out at a crowd of their supporters.
Hundreds gathered in support of their organization Randy and Friends at the nonprofit’s fundraising event Friday evening, “Hope is Blooming for Randy and Friends.”
Randy and Friends Inc. is a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities find opportunities for socialization, training and work. It aims to give people with disabilities the chance to live satisfying, fulfilling lives.
“Randy and Friends is changing lives every single day,” said Denny Moore, who emceed the event. “It’s amazing to see what it is today, and it’s growing every day even more.”
The fundraising event Friday at the Gainesville Civic Center included silent and live auctions, with items ranging from artwork and pottery to gift baskets and cards, followed by a dinner.
Several guests spoke during the event, including Charlie Miller, son of Sen. Butch Miller and a frequent visitor of the Rooster’s Perch, a local coffee shop where Randy and Friends employs a number of individuals with disabilities.
“I had a blast with them,” Miller said of his visits to the coffee shop. “I got to eat, I got to talk, I got to laugh and I got to smile. But most importantly, I got to get on a real level that I do not get to be with other folks.”
Proceeds from the evening benefited the organization, which provides mentors and volunteers who work with each young adult who desires to become independent. Its mission is “to create significant futures for adults with disabilities,” and it strives to create an environment in Gainesville that appreciates and supports every person.
Randy and Friends programs include pottery, beading, woodworking, horticulture, outdoor sports accessory making, communication and more to help develop marketable skills.
First lady Sandra Deal was a special guest in attendance Friday. She commended Marty and Randy Owens for the work they are doing in Gainesville.
“We appreciate and love Marty and Randy and all of their family, and those of you who have worked so hard to make this possible,” she said.
Marty and Randy Owens founded the nonprofit as a way to address the hard-to-reach needs in the community. She developed Randy and Friends, and many other local nonprofits, after Randy was hit by a car when he was 2 years old.
“I don’t call it an accident,” Randy Owens said. “But an incident took place, so God could fulfill his plan for my life.”
The nonprofit and coffee shop are located at 210 Bradford St. in Gainesville. To contact Randy and Friends, call 678-943-2400 or go to www.randyandfriends.org.
Moore encouraged those present Friday to consider stopping by the location to see the good work being done.
“You need to go over and see this organization at work,” he said. “When you see the smiles on their faces, you have no idea what it does for their self-esteem. It’s incredible, and we want you to see that and be a part of that.”