Hundreds of people waited patiently to roll up their sleeves and donate a pint of blood Tuesday as the 30th annual Gail Singer Memorial Blood Drive opened with a festive atmosphere celebrating the memory of one life and the potential to save thousands of others.
The Radisson Hotel ballrooms were filled with donors, volunteers and medical workers processing the blood destined to restock the Red Cross blood bank.
"The turnout has been spectacular," Chairman Stephen Singer said Tuesday about three hours into the drive. "In reality, it's probably exceeding my high expectations."
Singer was passing out snacks to people waiting their turn, greeting regular donors who returned for another year and welcoming any newcomers. There was music and food as well as activities like face-painting and balloon-tying for children who tagged along with their parents.
"We like to say this is a full-service blood drive," said Singer, whose necktie featuring the patient from the children's game "Operation!" set the tone. "It's just so gratifying to see every aspect of our community involved in this event."
Singer said more than 1,100 had preregistered and set up specific times to donate and hundreds of others walked in, registered and waited. The drive continues today at the Radisson from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and one of the scheduled donors is Gov. Maggie Hassan.
The Singer family, which owns Merchants Automotive Group, started the drive to honor the memory of Gail Singer, the wife of Stephen's brother, Gary. She died of leukemia in 1984 at age 29.
The drive has grown year by year, leading to a world record in 2012 when the Singer family organized a one-day push that brought in 1,959 pints. The drive returned to its usual two-day format last year and more than 1,700 donors contributed. Each pint can potentially help as many as three different patients when the blood is broken down into red cells, platelets and plasma, "It's excellent to be able to get all these people out to help other people," said Corinne Hennessey, a 25-year-old from Manchester who came with her fiancé. "It's good to have something like this to bring people together."
Hennessey said she started attending a couple of years ago with her fiancé, who is a cancer survivor.
Robert Castellano Jr. drove up from Nashua to donate for the seventh time. Castellano said he lost his father, Bob, to leukemia last fall, so this year's drive was more personal than the years before.
"He had to go get blood transfusions every week. We needed the Red Cross big-time for that," Castellano said. "It's really important to me."The second day is open to individuals as well as the corporate drive, when businesses compete for the honorary title of who can gather the most donors. Teams of five can register to win 250 Powerball tickets and individuals who donated will be eligible to win 100 tickets in the multi-state lottery game.
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