American Red Cross thanks blood donors, encourages more giving - Owatonna MN: Owatonna Peoples Press

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013 2:55 pm | Updated: 6:35 pm, Sat Jan 26, 2013.

OWATONNA — According to the American Red Cross, only 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood each year, and only 8 percent do.

Dewayne Erickson is one who does, and has for a long time.

“I try to give when I can, and when I feel good,” Erickson said.

This month, Erickson, at 75 years old, hit the 12-gallon mark. Since he started giving blood as a high school student in the ‘60s, Erickson has given 96 pints of blood—even after taking a few years off after being in the armed forces.

January is National Blood Donor Month, a time when the American Red Cross recognizes and thanks the millions of dedicated blood and platelet donors across the United States for helping to ensure a stable blood supply for patients in need, both locally and across the country.

“Every day in our country, approximately 44,000 units of blood are needed in hospitals to help treat trauma victims, surgery patients, organ transplant patients, premature babies and patients receiving treatment for cancer and other diseases,” said Geoff Kaufmann, CEO of the Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region. “As the New Year begins, it is the perfect time to honor donors for their commitment to saving lives through the simple act of giving blood and platelets throughout the year.”

Kerry Cipra, DRD Representative of the American Red Cross, said giving blood is important during anytime of the year, but especially during January because it’s a time when seasonal illness is high and many donors can’t give.

“It makes it harder to find healthy blood donors to step up,” Cipra said. “There’s still a need for blood donors during the month.”

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, which based on Minnesota’s population size, translates to every minute and a half someone in the state needs blood, Cipra said.

The Red Cross encourages all donors to make a New Year’s resolution to give blood regularly to help ensure a stable supply.

“There is definitely room for encouraging more — we’ve put an emphasis on high school and college students because they’re young donors, which means it could become a lifelong habit of donating blood,” said Sue Gonsior, American Red Cross Communications program manager. “They are the blood donors of the future.”

Cipra said there was a “tremendous response” from blood donors in November after Hurricane Sandy swept the northeastern coast of the country.

“It was good because people that weren’t affected were able to make up for the lost blood drives on the coast,” she said.

During the January American Red Cross Community Blood Drive in Owatonna, 232 pints of blood were collected during the two-day “O” drive, said Kay Oberle, coordinator of the community blood drive.

Cipra said when donors were asked why they gave blood, many said it was because someone asked them to.

“I have a friend that gives blood regularly and she said giving blood is much more satisfying than writing a check. It is something she can do,” Cipra said. “This is their way to have an impact and make a difference.”

Erickson agrees.

“I’ll never be a millionaire, but I can save a life. You don’t have to be rich to save lives,” he said. “I’m going to keep giving blood as long as I can.”

The next community blood drive will be on March 13-15 at St. Joseph’s Church in Owatonna.

To donate blood or find a blood drive, call 1-800-733-2767 or visit redcrossblood.org. The American Red Cross said all blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients.

Individuals who are 17 years of age, or 16 with parental consent in some states, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years old and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

According to a press release, the American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

Reach reporter Ashley Stewart at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter.com @OPPashley

© 2014 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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