Richard Corrente believes in laughter.
No, it wasn’t a laughing matter when he embarked on a two-year long campaign, although he never quit smiling and even waving from street corners in his effort to unseat former mayor Scott Avedisian.
Corrente maintains that his days of running for elective office are behind him. He’s not going back there. Nonetheless, he hasn’t forsaken his passion for a cause and his latest quest is to raise funds to help build a 44-room free hospital, the dream of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, whose story is the basis of the movie Patch Adams starring Robin Williams.
Corrente is the man behind PatchFest!, a day-long event that will include games, bounce houses, a 40-foot blue dinosaur, live music, food trucks, vendors, a mega car show and just about any other family attraction imaginable on Labor Day, Sept. 2. PatchFest will be held at Mulligan’s Island, 1000 New London Ave. in Cranston.
“Patch Adams reminded me of my mother,” Corrente said of the inspiration for the movie. “There’s such a need to make people laugh.”
Corrente said his mother was good at it and, with her in mind, he sent a letter to Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams commending him on his work.
“I just wanted him to know that he has done so much for so many people…he’s Mother Theresa.” In his letter he said he would be sending a donation, which he sent separately.
Then, just before Christmas, Corrente received a phone call from Dr. Adams thanking him for the donation. Corrente says they became “fast friends” and, after a 45-minute talk in which he learned that funds promised from the film for the hospital project have yet to be received, he was personally committed to helping.
According to the Patch Adams website, the Gesundheit hospital being built by the Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia “will embody our activist philosophy: a free, communal style hospital, nested in a community ecovillage, with a Teaching Center. The hospital will deliver care in a context that models our ideal design. The Teaching Center will educate visiting practitioners to create their ideal design.”
“He’s not a salesman and he admits it,” Corrente says of Dr. Adams.
On the other hand, Corrente said he’s been a “promoter” ever since he was a kid and, at the age of 14 mounted a campaign to raise $600 for a pool diving board.
Promoting is what Corrente has been doing. He’s rallied more than 20 volunteers, some of who worked on his campaign. The core organizers include Brent Maylee, Marshal Howard and Russ Smith. They’ve gotten out signs and printed up thousands of fliers. Corrente has asked for donations and participation from businesses and he’s turned out at events such as the cruise night in Oakland Beach to talk with people and hand out fliers. He’s planned a media blitz to get out the word and lined up a number of specialty souvenirs and items for car show exhibitors. Exhibitors will receive two passes to PatchFest, free raffle tickets, discounts on PatchFest clothing and VIP treatment.
Committed to doing some sort of fundraiser for the hospital, Corrente came up with the idea of a car show with events built around it to attract families. Finding a location, however, was an issue until he contacted Mulligan’s Island that embraced the idea.
Corrente said “all proceeds” would go to the cause. Also, he plans to make PatchFest an annual event and he has every intention of being there for the opening of the free hospital.
“We’re building the hospital and I’m going to be at the ribbon cutting,” he said.
Throughout his planning, Corrente has been in contact with the Gesundheit Institute. He said they have been supportive. So far, however, it doesn’t look like Dr. Adams will be able to attend as he is expected to be out of the country. That won’t deter Corrente from promoting what he sees as the core to Dr. Adams’ message and his aim to provide free health care.
Efforts to reach the institute for this story were unsuccessful. Email inquiries went unanswered.
Nonetheless, Dr. Adams summarizes his vision of more than a hospital on his website:
“I envisioned a community where people with poor self-images could go, actively participate in the rebuilding their lives, and reestablish love of self and of others – the most potent therapy of all. I envisioned a farm of about 75 to 100 acres with a primary school, a library, dormitories for as many as 300 patients, and facilities for artists and craftspeople. We would have gardens to make the community self-sufficient and a range of projects to make work a joyous game.”
As for the hospital, he writes, “The community would have a permanent staff of doctors and a temporary staff of teachers. Most people would stay only a few hours or days, but those needing the community for longer periods would stay longer.
My idea at that time (and still is, now) is that this model hospital would not necessarily be copied but rather would stimulate other groups to develop their own ideal medical approach for their communities.”
Dr. Adams’ clowning around is what resonates with Corrente.
“If the patient is laughing, the patient is healing,” Corrente said.
Corrente’s mission is hardly like running for office and that suits him.
“It’s going to be my life’s work out of politics,” he said.