Give the Gift of Life this Season

Traditionally, the holiday season is the time for giving gifts, and January is the time for dealing with the bills! This year, why not extend the spirit of giving past the holidays and into the New Year? Best of all, you can be a champion for giving without opening your wallets. At your convenience, you can offer a very useful and vital gift that no one will return or exchange, and even better, it costs you nothing but your time. That gift is a blood donation, which can literally be the gift of life.

Winter is a challenging time for blood banks. With the holidays, bad weather, and surges in colds and the flu during this time, the amount of blood donations can be significantly diminished. In 1970, the American Red Cross, which organizes most public blood drives, sought to increase awareness of the need to donate blood in the winter months by designating January as National Blood Donor Month. Their awareness activities remind people that donations are needed all year long, but especially in the winter.

There are two ways to donate -- you can give whole blood, which is the most common kind of collection, or you can donate blood platelets, which are used for some cancer treatments. Donating whole blood takes about 30 minutes, while donating platelets requires more time, but is worth the effort to help someone in dire need. You can donate whole blood about every two months, and make platelet donations even more frequently, if you choose.

To encourage blood donations, many community groups offer incentives, such as free movie tickets or grocery coupons. The best reward, however, is knowing that the blood you shared is doing an incredible amount of good for others, at no cost to you but a little time and a little pinch.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org.

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