Traveling world on a red couch. Here’s how he's making Concept Project a reality.
I first spotted Adrian Delli Colli dressed as Santa, sitting on a red couch on top of a van in downtown Exeter just before Christmas.
I could not resist walking over to get the story. He began by asking what was holding me back in life. Not much, I told him, before he explained the couch and his questions are part of something called The Concept Project, which raises funds and awareness for a variety of community-based nonprofit organizations.
“For our current project, we’re building a full documentary on a red couch that travels the world,” the 2019 Exeter High School graduate explained. “We interview people about what holds them back in life. We’re doing it for the Outdoor Foundation, getting people to get outside and enjoy the outside because it’s so good for your mental health.”
The couch project is just one in a series of concepts that started during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adrian was in college in Nova Scotia in April 2020, when 22 people were shot during a 13-hour rampage carried out by a man who drove a fake Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser. It was Canada's worst mass shooting.
“I was sitting in quarantine at the time like we all were. I was depressed about what was going on in the world and on top of that, we heard about the shooting,” he said. “I kept saying Nova Scotia, of all places, because I had fallen in love with this place. It was my new safe haven home.”
Adrian went to college in Canada as part of a goal he made for himself to live outside of the United States for 10 years. “I ended up in Nova Scotia because it’s very affordable and I really liked the area; it’s like an ocean playground,” he said. “The Concept Project was born in Nova Scotia.”
The event that started the project was called the Wagon Walk. Adrian dragged a wagon 150 km and traced the route of the shooter. He had flowers in the wagon which he gave to families of victims along the way. The wagon walk raised money for a scholarship fund for the families of the victims.
“It completely shifted my life, it changed my life, and there’s no one on this planet that can really understand it besides my partner Ireland, she did it with me,” he said. “It was a really heavy four days. It was about going out there because I was intrigued about what that guy might have been thinking and what kinds of communities had been affected.”
More than just a concept
Adrian eventually returned to Exeter to take his courses remotely, but the idea for the Concept Project took hold. In addition to his partner, Ireland Thurler, Harrison Cowden, Christopher Sacy and Evy Rusnak helped get it off the ground.
“We are going to continually act as the Concept Project,” he said. “We’re completely redefining how we look at building awareness and raising money.”
Adrian points to the population of the world as he talks about his idea. “Every single person is capable of coming up with ideas that are strong enough to raise thousands of dollars and plenty of awareness of the things you’re passionate about,” he said.
Their ultimate goal is to convert to a platform company that provides a convenient way for people to do good and fundraise for their causes.
“That’s obviously down the road,” he said. “The primary goal is to act as a platform for unique adventures and never before done ideas that people want to carry out.”
20 projects and counting
They’ve done 20 projects so far, including five major undertakings like The Wagon Walk, the Highs and Low Walk, the Clothing March, the Business Cycle and the Garbage Swim. None of this is what the 2019 high school graduate expected when he went to college for outdoor recreation.
Locally, the Highs and Low Project took the group from the highest point in the state, Mount Washington, to the lowest, Hampton Beach, to raise money for mental health support. Adrian walked with Garret Roberts, another 2019 EHS grad, and Emmie Daswani, a Winnacunnet grad.
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“We were all just out there to slash some of the stigma around it,” he said. “We took inspiration from the Wagon Walk.”
At Hampton Beach, they partnered with Chucky Rosa, known for his work to raise awareness of addiction. Rosa spoke to the crowd before they all ran into the ocean. “It was a very cool way to wrap it up,” Adrian said.
Looking ahead, Adrian is working to grow the project’s social media platform while continuing projects to raise awareness and money. They would like to sponsor athletes and are in talks to sponsor a biker in Mexico who plans to go from the highest to the lowest point in the country for mental health.
As for where he finds new ideas for Concept Projects, Adrian says it could be anywhere. “I take inspiration from pretty much anything I see,” he said. “If I see any sort of charitable cause, I think could there be the world’s first?”
Which is how they ended up swimming the coastline from Maine to Massachusetts cleaning trash from the ocean.
“How do you completely reinvent something that’s never been done before? A lot of ideas come from me, and a lot of ideas come from other people,” he said. “The platform is going to enable other people’s ideas. I can do projects that come from my brain all day long to make a difference.”
‘I want to completely change the world’
Ultimately, Adrian wants to have something tangible connected to the project.
“I want to completely change the world and I want to make a new space for intellectual property to become charity ideas,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with pitching your idea 100 times over to get the reaction. If you can get someone to admit to themselves that they shouldn’t do that thing, you have a very good concept project.”