The American Red Cross is desperately looking for donations throughout the summer season and especially during the Fourth of July weekend.

A 21% decrease in the number of blood and platelet donations is typical this time of year as schools close and people go on vacation, according to the American Red Cross.

“When people aren’t donating, the blood supply is affected, so it could be challenging to ensure that blood is available when hospitals need it,” said Diane Concannon, director of communications for the Red Cross in the New Jersey Region.

Platelets, which only have a shelf life of five days, are especially needed right now, as they are crucial during treatments for cancer patients.

Whole blood on the other hand, only has a shelf life of 42 days.

Typically, whole blood donations take about an hour. But, you can shorten your donation time by about 15 minutes through the “rapid pass” available on their website. If you download the blood donor drive, you can even see where your blood is delivered and used afterward.

The American Red Cross is particularly interested in receiving blood from donors that are diverse in race, ethnicity and blood type in an effort to help patients fighting sickle cell diseases. She said the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from African American donors for this specific trait.

“There are certain traits in certain blood types that could be extremely useful and more beneficial,” she said. “We’re asking donors that are Black to please make sure to come out and donate and identify as Black, so that the screenings for those traits could be tested in your blood to see if they are there, and to see if that blood could in fact directly benefit someone who has sickle cell.”

Those who donate by June 30 could win a trip to Graceland. Those who donate by July 10 will receive a recycled cotton tote bag, while supplies last.

“The need for blood is constant,” Concannon said. “It does not take a summer vacation.”

If you’re interested in donating, visit RedCrossBlood.org to enter your zip code and find the nearest blood donation site to you. You must be in good health and at least 110lbs to be eligible.

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