Above: Patrick Gardner, holding his Franken Berry hat dedicated to the voice actor Bob McFadden, while wearing his Frankenstein hat, with a dedication to the author Mary Shelley.
Patrick Gardner, 35, a resident of Montague and a member of LifePath’s Adult Family Care (AFC) Program, has made over 260 amazing hats since 2016, each of them one of a kind, depicting a character and often honoring that character’s creator, a real-life person, or representing a holiday. “I just think of someone living or dead, and I do research on them. For all my other hats, I think of holidays, events, someone’s birthday, or nature,” explains Patrick.
Patrick’s hats include a celebration of Betty White, Bozo the Clown, Gene Wilder, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and her creator—L. Frank Baum, Count Chocula, Jiminy Cricket, and St. Nicholas’s birthday, to name just a few.
Patrick uses felt, wigs, buttons, his own drawings, photos, foam, and fabrics to make his creations, purchasing his materials from thrift stores, Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Walmart, other stores in the area, and online. It takes Patrick up to 12 hours to make a single hat.
Patrick likes to wear his hats out in the community. When someone sees one of his hats, Patrick says they ask questions, as his hats have a lot of information on them, including information about the origin or history of a person or character. “There are so many people that I call friends. They love my hats, and can’t wait to see more of them over the weeks. They are eager to see my hats. Two of my hats are at Walgreens in Turners Falls. I made two of my friends there ‘Red Nose Day Hats.’ They are displayed on a window sill,” says Patrick.
Unfortunately, Patrick explains, “There are a few people who make rude remarks to me when I wear my hats.” Still, Patrick says he “wants to show his hats to everyone.” Patrick also enjoys drawing, building scarecrows, and making snow sculptures. “I help my Uncle Chip and my sister Natalie and my brother-in-law Cliff on their farm. My hobbies are taking care of my tree frogs and doing my artwork,” says Patrick.
As far as LifePath’s AFC Program, Patrick says, “It’s a great program. The workers are very friendly and nice—they are my friends.”
The AFC Program offers compassionate, individualized care for people with disabilities in a nurturing home environment. Members are individuals who cannot live alone safely because of medical, physical, cognitive, or mental health challenges. Members live in caregivers’ homes in local communities, allowing care recipients to maintain lasting community relationships. Caregivers earn a tax exempt stipend, which allows them to earn income, while staying at home.
Patrick lives with his mom, Mary Gardner, 69, who heard about the AFC Program when she became the caregiver for her mom, Lena Garbiel. Mary was raised on a large dairy farm, explaining, “I’m a farmerette. When I can, I still help my brother Karl with his farm crops.” Along with her son Patrick, she also has a daughter and son-in-law, Natalie and Cliff Spatcher, and two grandchildren, Liam, 3, and Evelyn, 8 months. She enjoys photography and scrapbooking and loves the outdoors.
When Mary saw Patrick’s first hat, she remembers thinking “wow,” and explains, “I was very surprised. I told Patrick he was very gifted. I love every one of his hats.”
“I feel very blessed that Patrick is such an amazing artist. Patrick is so talented. Follow your dreams,” says Mary.
Mary has been a caregiver in the AFC Program since 2,000—first for her mother so she could remain at home, and now for Patrick. “The AFC Program is very helpful in caring for an individual so they can live at home. Also, the program has workshop information and other resources that can help an individual,” says Mary.
If you are interested in finding out more about the AFC Program, please call LifePath at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 to speak to a Resource Consultant, or email info@LifePathMA.org.