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Fighting Addiction with Love and Laughs, An Interview with Richie Giacoppo of Ricky, Inc.

When my friend and high school basketball teammate Richie Giacoppo lost his son Ricky to an accidental overdose in 2019, his family and friends rallied to help others and keep Ricky’s memory alive. The result is Ricky, Inc.

It is the mission of Ricky, Inc. to give relief to the less fortunate population of our society who are suffering from homelessness, mental illness and substance use disorder.

I’m hosting a comedy fundraiser Thursday March 30, 2023 to benefit Ricky Inc.

Get tickets here –

Connect with Ricky Inc.

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:05
Hello, everybody, this is Jimmy, welcome back to another episode of our show. We are so excited to be back performing every week putting out these podcasts every week we we really like it. We’re very enthusiastic about it. Because our goal is to raise the profile of people and organizations that are doing good work and have some fun while we do it. So today’s guest is my friend Richie GIA COPO he and I were both the starting guards at the Cambridge Latin 1973 suburban league co champs Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Right? That’s right. You say young gym tango. I never knew you played basketball. That’s right. I was the point guard starting guard for Cambridge, Latin back in 73. And we had a lot of fun. And we we had a pretty good team. You know, we were 17 and three. So that was a good team. But anyway, and IT Division One, two back in the day.

Richard Giacoppo 0:58
That’s a difference. Yeah. And

Jimmy Tingle 1:00
that was very cool. But anyway, Richie and I have been friends for, you know, since we were kids were on the swim team together at the Cambridge YMCA. And we’ve been reunited in the last year or two. Because I heard about a tragedy that happened in his life. I ran into his brother. And I said, How’s How’s GE doing? That’s his nickname. I said, How’s GE doing? He said, Well, he lost his son. I said, you’re kidding me? Oh, no. And he told me about it. And I called him up. I said, Gee, let’s, what’s the story? And is there anything we can do to help? So he told me about Ricky ink. So I was hoping G could you could just talk and tell our listeners today? What is Ricky ink? And why did you start it?

Richard Giacoppo 1:43
Well, no, thank you, Jimmy. Ricky, Eric is just it’s all a nonprofit corporation. It’s a 501 C three. And we started it in memory of us on Ricky. We lost him on May 11 2019. And you know, of course, like any parent that loses a child, your life is changed forever. So after several months of you know, the pain and hardship and sorrow, we decided we wanted to do something. So we came up with this idea that we were gonna give backpacks out to people that are suffering from, you know, facing homelessness, substance use disorder, or mental health issues. And Ricky passed from an accidental overdose, and we don’t hide behind that. He had a an illness. It’s called substance use disorder. And we do these backpacks in memory of him. And the reason it’s called Ricky Incorporated, is because sometimes when people pass their names, leave people’s lips after so long. And we just wanted to make sure that anybody that dealt with us had to say our son’s name. So when you say, Ricky, thank you saying, Ricky, and we want everybody to know that the substance use disorder, they took his life and didn’t define him now, Jimmy, he, he was, he was a wonderful guy, and he was smart. He read a lot of books. He read almost every book if you get his hand on. He was a certified scuba diver. He used to go diving with myself and his brother Christopher, up and down the Massachusetts Coast, Florida, Florida Keys grew up. He was an animal lover. He volunteered for the mspca he had a job at the Animal Rescue League, he was a member of PETA. He had quite a sense of humor. And he one time he dressed up as a turkey suit. And he got on the commuter rail out here in Norwood and took it into Boston and stole over the Mass Pike on Thanksgiving. Shouting don’t kill turkeys don’t kill turkey. So he had to get on quite a sense of humor. But you know, that’s the thing that we wanted to do is just remember him and hold them in highlight not a lot of people have a stigma about you know, addiction and substance use disorder, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or anything else that you know, that comes a stigma with it, and we want to try to destigmatize things, educate the public, but more so help people that are suffering. So that’s the community that we target our services for. And we do we give them backpacks filled with personal needs items like hygiene products, socks, hats, gloves, blankets, things like that. We also provide transportation, if somebody is on the street, and they want to go to a detox or a treatment facility, but they can’t get there. They can contact us and you know, once we confirm that, that’s where they’re going. We will send an ova for them. And we’ve done that many times. And we also have a very small sponsorship program, whereby once you go through your detox, you know what’s what’s next. You’re going to come back on the street. Do you have any Where to go. And if you don’t, and you don’t need to get into a house but don’t have money, we will pay the first month’s rent and enable you a month to be able to find a job and, you know, start supporting yourself on that note, those are just some of the things that we do. And, you know, we’ve gotten some really good results. And we just what, like we said, I said, we just want to educate the public.

Jimmy Tingle 5:22
Right. And for those of you I don’t think I mentioned it off the top, but we’re doing a fundraiser on March 30. At the Norwood theatre comedy fundraiser I’ll be hosting. And my guest is Steve Sweeney. Legendary calm McCarran Boston, and Christine Hurley, Christine Hurley, also known as the Queen of Boston comedy. She’s really funny. Initially, we had Lenny clock, but to his credit, and we’re all very happy for him. He got a sitcom and he starts sent, he starts filming it out in Los Angeles the week of March 27. So he will be out of town. Originally, he was on the bill, but Christine Hurley has stepped up and she will be She’s hilarious if you’ve never seen her really, really funny. And she’ll be on the bill as well. So it would be myself, Steve Sweeney and Christine Hurley. And the tickets are at Jimmy And we’d love you to attend if you can, proceeds to benefit Ricky Inc. Tell me, gee, when you do this work, how has it been received by the shelters? How is it being received by the people who get these backpacks? And did you say that was not can and it as well? And the backpack?

Richard Giacoppo 6:39
No, we don’t we can’t we’re not allowed to just put it in. Okay. But we’re certified by the state of Massachusetts Bureau bureau of substance addiction services. And we I’m trained, as you know, not can’t trainer. So what we do is we go out and when we have somebody who wants the NOC, and a lot of times, it’s just family members. Jimmy YEAH, because we do meet with family members and say, Listen, you know, this can be a life saving device, just have it on hand, keep it in your purse in your pocket, because we’re in the house, you can get a quick because not can may not necessarily be the end all cure all to save the lives. But what it does when somebody is having an overdose from an opioid, the Narcan, you know, with one or two doses are administered nasal on Naloxone, as they call it, it can buy time. And what that means is it buys time for emergency medical services to arrive in administer the proper levels of either, you know, intravenous Narcan, or however else they can, you know, help them. But that’s what it does. And for people that have been knockin three, four or five times, whatever, it’s, it’s really saved their lives. And basically, when you look at it long run, it’s buying time for, you know, the emergency medical teams to get there and help them.

Jimmy Tingle 7:57
Right. So tell me, how has it been received as you bring these backpacks to the various shelters? And how have the people responded, both in the shelters and the people who received the backpacks?

Richard Giacoppo 8:11
We get nothing but the most appreciation to me. Um, we have, I can’t tell you how many people have just said, God bless you. You’re doing God’s work. Thank you so much. We’ve had people break down in tears and say, I didn’t think anybody in this world kid anything about me. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s heartwarming, just to see the response. And the the facilities themselves in the organizations, the shelters, the harm reduction places that we go and distribute these things. The staff, they’re falling all over themselves to help us because we are helping them by giving the services to their clientele. And it really goes overwhelmed. And just just to say, somebody just cried because they just got a backpack with a fresh new pair of socks in it. It’s really, it’s something it’s something else, it’s very rewarding.

Jimmy Tingle 9:03
Tell me how, in your personal experience, how has this helped you? Or has it helped you in terms of the grieving process? Your wife, you, your wife, Bernadette, the rest of your family members, has this been a helpful endeavor in terms of your personal grieving?

Richard Giacoppo 9:25
It has, you know, we’re, we’re still struggling mightily, and we will always well, I mean, there’s one thing that if anybody hasn’t suffered a severe loss like a child it’s whether you for the rest of your life and you just have to learn to live with it. You know, we expect to bury our parents, we expect to bury our grandparents, maybe a sibling, but it’s totally unnatural to bury a child. And that has a, you know, a kind of a different effect not that anybody else’s grief doesn’t equate to mine or ours. They’re just different. And it you know, doing Ricky Yang is kind of therapeutic. And you know, because we go out and have to do so much, you know, people in the long run see us giving our backpacks or not candle providing some of the services. But there’s so much behind the scenes that has to be done. It’s a good thing. I’m retired because it’s like a full time job.

Jimmy Tingle 10:23
And all proceeds from the comedy show will be going to support these backpacks and, and the efforts of everybody and I believe it’s an all volunteer organization.

Richard Giacoppo 10:32
Yes, we are 100% volunteer, nobody takes a penny. So every every, you know, everything that we get from a donation or you know, for purchase or whatever goes right into the organization, and then we’ll go right back out when we need to buy 300 backpacks or you know, 300 you know, bars, bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, shave cream raises all that stuff. So it’s it’s really great, and it’s once again heartwarming, and that it is 100% You know, volunteered and nobody wants a penny, which is great.

Jimmy Tingle 11:11
You say you’re retired, GE now I know this, but tell people about your background. Your you come from a law enforcement family. What was your role in the know on the Norwood Police Department.

Richard Giacoppo 11:23
I was a patrolman for 20 years. And I had several, you know, hats that I wore during that time I did crime prevention, safety. I was in the schools I did, you know, like, you know, covered all type of thing. In my last 10 years, I was in detectives where I worked major crimes. I was also on a narcotics Task Force, which was kind of ironic, because I was, you know, working on that, and then still having those problems at home with my child, which was kind of a double edged sword. That kind of hurt. But, you know, it happens. I was also assigned to an FBI Task Force where it was a human trafficking task force. So you know, I think I had a very well rounded career, and I really enjoyed my time and detectives. But that’s how I ended up when I retired as a detective.

Jimmy Tingle 12:16
Now, your dad was also in law enforcement, right?

Richard Giacoppo 12:20
Yep. My, my father was a detective in Cambridge, because I

Jimmy Tingle 12:24
remember your dad used to come to the basketball games. And my mother would be sitting on the sidelines running up and down the court, and Mr. Chat and other center on our team, his father would be there with a kazoo playing a zoo in the like, like, you know, warming up the crowd with a kazoo. My mother will be running up and down the court. My father was saying sit down, Francis. We had a crew back then come into the games. But I remember your father coming to the games. And how long was he a detective in Cambridge? Oh, I

Richard Giacoppo 12:56
gotta be honest. I don’t know how many years he was. But he was there for a while. And let’s just say it goes back to when they had a task force. He worked on the the Joint Task Force for the Boston Strangler. Oh, wow. Yeah. So he was you know, he’s done quite a few homicide investigations. And he was in on that task force. And it just runs in a family Jimmy, my oldest brother Michael. He was in Jacksonville, Florida. He came back up here. He ended up with the Cambridge Police, and it was a superintendent and the Cambridge Police Department. My brother Steven. He’s bounced around. He’s, you know, he was a detective at Boston University. And he went to MIT. He was a sergeant and he’s been at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department, he went up the ranks the captain. And right now he’s retired and he’s working in believes private security. So we covered all bases. And we even got my younger brother Scott, who works with animals. He was, you know, we were the mspca. And it was a police officer in the animal control. And now he goes around the country. Teaching shelters, how not to kill animals. So we got everything covered.

Jimmy Tingle 14:09
Wow. So if you come to the show, folks, the whole family will be there. They’re all in law enforcement, there probably won’t be any security issues. So it’ll be a very safe environment if you’d like to come. Tell me, gee, you know, your experience as a police officer or detective and then experiencing this tragedy in your own family? What would you say the perception of the police of law enforcement is with people who are in the shelters who are suffering from substance abuse disorders? Has that evolved over the years? Are people more empathetic and sympathetic to people’s situations that they might have been 2020 years ago?

Richard Giacoppo 14:54
Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. I was gonna say, years ago, there wasn’t as much sympathy as you would think, today, it’s more of a community policing role. And it varies from department to department, like our department here in Norwood, we’re led by Chief Bill Brooks. And he is very, very, very community oriented. And then he passes that down through the trainings and his expectations of his officers. And we got a really good group out here, and they right hit the nail on the head again, that they’re constantly being reinforced that, you know, we need to engage the public, we need to, you know, be meet them on their terms on friendly terms. And he has really embraced and he’s been such a great friend to Ricky and because, well, he’s embraced this, as, you know, some people here. Substance Use Disorder is just a fancy word for addiction. And, you know, you get this the cynical sarcasm? Well, actually, it’s not. And for those who are educated, the people who, when you go get a mental health clinician wants to do an evaluation on a person, they have what’s called the DSM five, and it’s the data for statistical issues of mental health. And inside of it, because the diagnostic tool is substance use disorder, and it was saying symptoms and how it is. So it’s actually a diagnosed illness. So when people just say, Oh, no, it’s addiction, it’s a choice. They’re uninformed. And that’s one of the things we want to try to inform them. And the sad question is, yes, the police culture is changing. And hopefully, it’s going to continue, because it’s not 100% there yet.

Jimmy Tingle 16:33
Right. And I imagine that because, unfortunately, the disease is so prevalent, there’s probably many people in law enforcement, that have a father, or a son, or a brother, or a wife, or a mother, you know, daughter that are also addicted as well. Yeah,

Richard Giacoppo 16:54
um, when, when this first happened, you know, shortly after we lost Ricky, and you know, close friends come to aid, I want to talk, the biggest thing is, nobody knows what to say. And it’s very difficult conversation. And I’ve come to understand that, and I just want them to know, you know, there’s there’s nothing out of bounds that they really need to talk to you about these things. And it was surprising how many people in cops actually said, Well, you know, I’ve never told you this before, but my niece, my, my nephew, my son, and it’s kind of like hiding behind a dirty little secret to me. And if you saw the obituary that we put out when our son passed, it was laid out, he suffered with this illness for years, man, it didn’t define him. And really was a lot of people that I was just amazed and said, Well, you know, my first thing was, you know, we’re getting into helping people, what can I do to help you? Oh, so that’s where we are right

Jimmy Tingle 17:56
now. Nice. And not to mention the police officers themselves who are susceptible to the disease. I mean, it doesn’t discriminate. It’s everywhere.

Richard Giacoppo 18:06
Yeah, it’s, yeah. Well, it’s very well known that you know, alcoholism and drug abuse is prevalent, and, you know, high stress jobs like a police officers job. Yeah. So I haven’t had any crops reach out to me on that venue yet, but I have helped a few nieces and sons. So as long as they know, we’re here, and that’s all we want to do is help people.

Jimmy Tingle 18:30
You’re doing great work. So congratulations to you, to your family, to all the supporters, all the people who have been helping you all the volunteers. And, you know, we’re honored to be able to do something for you and to help Ricky ink. So folks, march 30, Thursday night we’re doing the comedy show at the Norwood theater would love you to come by. It’ll be myself Steve Sweeney and the queen of Boston comedy. Christine Hurley tickets at Jimmy If you want to learn more about Ricky ink, it’s Ricky, Ricky And if you can’t make the show, you can always make a donation there at Ricky All proceeds go to buy backpacks to help people and homeless shelters and kids, especially kids who are living on the streets and try to get them into some sort of treatment try to improve their situation. They’re combating homelessness. They’re combating addiction. They’re combating the loneliness that is epidemic in our country right now. And they’re doing great work. So please support them any way you can. Richie, it’s been an honor to help you and to work with you and I’m really inspired by the great work that you’re doing. So my love to you and to Bernadette and to the whole Giacoppo family, every police officer there. There’ll be at the show again, folks security will not be an issue at this show. Thursday, March 30, eight o’clock Norwood theater tickets at Jimmy Richie Giacoppo, thank you so much my brother in law Have you

Richard Giacoppo 20:00
thank you love you brother and you’re the best so God bless

Jimmy Tingle 20:03
Thank you God bless you to my friend we’ll talk soon nice bye

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