Friends of the late Johnston Firefighter Richard Gemma are putting together a benefit to raise money for his three surviving children. This event will take place on Saturday, November 9, at The Joint Bar & Grill, located on 1150 Oaklawn Ave., in Cranston, from 12:00 noon to 6:00 PM.
This fundraiser is being sponsored jointly by the restaurant and The Bridge at Cherry Hill, located in Johnston. The day will feature food, drinks, raffles, including tickets to see the New England Patriots, door prizes, live entertainment provided by local comedians and disk jockeys and other surprises.
The Bridge at Cherry Hill Sales Manager Jen Burns, who along with Chris Campagone, who works for the Town of Cranston, and family friend Jason Laffredo, is putting this event together, said there has been an outpouring of support for Gemma. She has already found that Gemma was not only well-known in town but would have been taken aback from the community backing.
“We have been in touch with so many people who knew Richard, and we were surprised when other people said they wither knew or worked with him,” said Burns, who said she knew Gemma for many years through a family friend. “He was always doing stuff with his kids, loved traveling to Florida where his brother lives and riding his motorcycle. His loss is really being felt around town.”
Gemma, a Cranston resident who served on the Johnston Fire Department for six years, was on the first day of his two-week vacation, when he was killed in a motorcycle accident on August 27. He was 45 years old. According to several news reports, Gemma suffered a traumatic head injury after a crash at the intersection of Belgium Street and Felicia Drive. He was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where doctors were unable to revive him.
Investigators believe Gemma was traveling north on Belgium Street when his front tire struck the curb on the west side of the road, causing him to veer. Authorities said Gemma tried to break, which caused him to be thrown from the motorcycle.
Born in Providence, he was the son of Ret. Johnston Battalion Chief Richard L. Gemma and Kathleen (Adamo) Gemma of Johnston; father to Siobhan H. San Antonio, Gianna J. Gemma and Antonio R. Gemma and the brother of Louis J. Gemma of Englewood, FL. Richard graduated from Cranston East High School.
The news hit Campagnone, who grew up hanging out with the Gemma family, hard. He said the family was devoted to making people happy and would do what they could to help people in the community or in their neighborhood.
“His family and I grew up in Cranston, and I went to school with his brother,” he said. “Richard was such a kind-hearted person; always looking for ways of helping others. It was no surprise to anyone who knew him that he would decide to go into public service. He has so many friends, so when word spread about what happened, it left a void in the area to everyone who knew him.”
Burns said they have reached out to the area police and firefighter stations throughout the state in hopes of gaining their support. She said the police officers, firefighters and EMS are a brotherhood, and when one their own passes, it often hits them as if it were one of their own. That also led to holding this fundraiser in his honor.
There will be a 50/50 raffle along with the other entertainers that will be forthcoming. Campagnone and Burns said they are asking the community for support in the form of either monetary donations, in-kind services and donations such as gift cards, gift baskets, event tickets and anything else that would like to be included.
All donations may be left either with Jen Burns at the Bridge at Cherry Hill, 1 Cherry Hill Rd. in Johnston or at The Joint Bar & Grill on behalf of Chris Campagnone.
The organizers are also looking for Event Sponsors that can also donate their time and/or resources. Benefits include being recognized at the event.
There is no charge to attend the event. Burns said a donation box will be stationed at the front door. Also, there will be a free shuttle service from the former Phred’s Pharmacy parking lot. There is no parking available in The 99 Restaurant parking lot. Cars that park there for this event are subject to being towed.
For additional details on the event, including making a donation to becoming a sponsor, please contact either Jen Burns at 401-529-6854 or Chris Campagnone at 401-263-0657