By Eddie Zitnik, Chair, American Red Cross National Youth Council
Today is International Youth Day, a special day during the year which celebrates the impact youth can make on society all around the world. At the American Red Cross we hope to inspire youth and young adults to donate blood this summer to help meet the daily need of 15,000 blood donations for approximately 2,700 hospitals across the country. As young people, we can make a difference.
We are at an exciting time in history when youth have the potential to change the world in more ways than one. Donating blood is one of these ways. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states) and weigh at least 110 pounds may donate blood every 56 days. Imagine how many lives you could save in your lifetime if you started donating today!
The first time I donated blood I was 16 years old and living in Ohio. While I had been volunteering with the Red Cross for two years, I wasn’t quite old enough to become a donor. There was nothing like becoming a part of the proud group of blood donors who I volunteered alongside for years. I still remember the feeling of knowing that I helped save the life of a complete stranger who I may never know or even meet. This taught me an important lesson in altruism, a lesson which I carry with me even today as a medical student. I ask youth to challenge themselves, become Red Cross blood donors, and give back to their communities through the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross.
During the summer months, about two fewer donors give blood at each Red Cross blood drive than what hospital patients need. Additionally, blood donations among youth between the ages of 18 and 24 drop by about 40 percent! Blood cannot be manufactured and can only come from volunteer donors like you. So what can you do to help? Grab a couple friends, find a local blood drive (redcrossblood.org, 1-800-RED CROSS), and donate a unit of blood for a person in need. It’s that simple. While the need is constant, the gratification is instant!
When you get back to school this fall and your friends and teachers ask what you did with your summer, you can proudly say that you helped save up to three lives by becoming a Red Cross blood donor!