August 27. 2018 10:00AM

Gail Singer blood drive remains team effort

New Hampshire Union Leader

Stephen Singer of Merchants Automotive, from left, Chris Sharp of Cross Insurance, and Trish Sablitz and Michael Chapio of the American Red Cross pose for a picture during the Gail Singer Memorial Blood Drive in Manchester in 2016. The 35th drive is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Manchester Downtown Hotel. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER — The Gail Singer Memorial Blood Drive continues to enjoy the support that has made the benefit an annual celebration for more than three decades.

The 35th annual drive is Tuesday and Wednesday. Thousands of donors will roll up their sleeves to donate a pint and help the American Red Cross restock blood-bank supplies.

“It’s just amazing the support that we get from the community,” said Stephen Singer, who started the drive in 1984, about a month after his sister-in-law died of leukemia at age 29.

“It accomplished exactly what we wanted,” Singer said. “We wanted to perpetuate Gail’s memory and her values. And every year it comes back.”

The drive started with about 100 donors, then kept going, setting a record in 2011 when 1,959 pints of blood were collected — the most in a single U.S. blood drive.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever top that, but every year we get close to 2,000 people through the door,” Singer said.

He said the last few years the drive has averaged 1,500 to 1,750 units, and he’s expecting similar totals over the two-day event at the Exposition Center at the Manchester Downtown Hotel, 700 Elm St.

“It’s really one of the iconic events in the community,” said Singer, president emeritus of Merchants Fleet Management, the family auto business.

Singer said in addition to the regular donors, area businesses have continued to offer their support as sponsors. The donor appreciation bags are stocked each year with coupons, vouchers and other incentives to bring back regular donors and attract new ones.

The “swag bag,” as Singer said one regular donor has dubbed it, has become an annual hit; new sponsors add to it every year.

“The people that donate, the people that sponsor, it’s a community initiative, and we’re very proud to be the spearhead to make this happen,” Singer said.

Among the additions to this year’s bags are vouchers for tubing at McIntyre Ski Area and a movie night at Chunky’s cinema theaters. The New Hampshire Lottery is contributing again with $2 scratch tickets in each bag. Donors will also receive vouchers for New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Manchester Monarchs games and a T-shirt with this year’s theme.

Singer said this year’s bag contains more than $300 worth of “goodies” from area businesses that are happy to be part of the event.

The theme for this year is “Be A Team Player,” which Singer said comes in part from the friendly competition that has developed among corporate teams trying to donate the most. But it’s also about the individual donors, many of whom have been coming year after year to donate a unit that potentially could help save up to three lives. 

There are also hundreds of volunteers making the event such a success year after year, he said.

The Red Cross is grateful for the Singer family’s efforts and the timing of the drive, which comes at the end of the summer season — when donations are sometimes more tough to come by.

“The summer months are an extremely difficult time for collecting blood, and this year we are again in an emergency need situation,” said Maria Devlin, CEO of the Red Cross New Hampshire and Vermont chapter. “We thank Stephen Singer for his leadership in planning and implementing this one-of-a-kind blood drive and the Singer family for their loyal support of the Red Cross mission.”

Donors are encouraged to reserve times for Tuesday and Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Visit for more information.