Bob Santoro

Bob Santoro with his emotional support dog Nellie. Santoro is a regular blood donor at North Conway Community Center's blood drives. There will be a blood drive at the center Friday. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Greetings from the blood drive at the North Conway Community Center. The American Red Cross is experiencing an emergency blood shortage and needs your help.

One of our favorite volunteers, Bob Santoro, aka Hurricane Bob, is a frequent blood donor here at the center. Everyone donates for their own reasons, but Santoro’s story is a powerful one that embodies the spirit of community and support for those in need.

Santoro is an experienced pilot. On July 1, 2006, he was flying his family in their small, private plane from their home in Santa Barbara, Calif., to their summer home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Just a half hour into the flight, Santoro’s plane experienced engine issues and he had to perform an emergency landing. He and his oldest son survived, but tragically his wife and youngest son did not make it. Santoro was in critical condition and spent a month in the hospital.

The Santa Barbara community was devastated. While Santoro was still in a coma and scheduled to undergo multiple surgeries to save his leg, his community and friends were desperate to channel their grief and do something for him. The doctors feared he might not make it. Two close friends of the family sprang into action and hosted a blood drive.

On the day of the drive, community members came out in droves. Everyone from the staff of the building supply store Santoro frequented to the members of the YMCA and local church of which the Santoros were a part of came out to donate blood. The Santa Barbara Red Cross staff reported a record drive and ran out of blood bags.

Santoro’s dad, Bob Sr., attended the blood drive to thank the donors. So many people showed up that he had to stand out in the parking lot to direct traffic. He was moved by the amount of people who turned up in support. “I knew my son had friends,” said Bob Sr. to a local TV news reporter on the scene, “But I didn’t realize he had this many friends.”

Santoro made a full recovery after many visits to the physical therapist. Though you would never know he nearly lost his leg by watching him scuttle around the gardens here at the center, Santoro still suffers from PTSD. He brings his emotional support dog, Nellie, to the community center every six weeks to donate blood in memory of his wife, Karen and son, Ian.

Donating blood means different things to different people, but it means the most to those on the receiving end. Lives of people like Santoro are saved every day due to the miracle of blood transfusions.

There are still appointments open for our Black Friday blood drive taking place here at the North Conway Community Center on Friday, Nov. 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and more coming up in December. To make an appointment, go to redcrossblood.org. Please consider donating blood to save lives

Our adult programs are in full swing, including canasta Mondays at 1 p.m., basketball Mondays at 7 p.m., Sit ‘n Sew Thursdays at 9 a.m., mahjong Thursdays at 2 p.m., indoor soccer Fridays at 7 p.m. and Magic the Gathering Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Acoustic jam sessions take place the third Sunday of the month at 2 p.m. and the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. We have several indoor pickleball sessions on the calendar which began Nov. 1.

To sign up for adult programs, go to northconwaycommunitycenter.org/adult-sports and register for the 2021-2022 season. Pickleball players need to also sign up for their preferred sessions in advance. Sports programs are $3 per session and programs that take place in the multipurpose room are $1 per session. Health screenings can be completed online in advance of participating in activities.

Mark your calendars for Breakfast with Santa (with a twist) coming up on Dec. 4 from 8 to 11 a.m. The gym will be set up with the usual Santa photo scene along with a new addition of a snaking road of holiday-themed kids’ games. Visitors will get their photo and frame kit to assemble at home. At the end of the visit, folks will take their breakfast to go. The cost for this event is $5 and includes the photo, frame, activities, and breakfast to go. All proceeds benefit the North Conway Community Center.

Four Your Paws Only Dog Obedience Class takes place at the center on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. Go to fouryourpawsonly.com/obedience-classes.html or call (603) 356-7297 for more information.

Daytime AA meetings take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at noon. Evening AA meetings take place on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. All meetings take place in the multipurpose room. To join the meetings, use the playground entrance along the side of the building.

If you have a program, meeting or event that you would like to host at the North Conway Community Center, email carrie@northconwaycommunitycenter.org to find out more information.

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