Sleepy Eye Community Blood Drive — Tuesday, Jan. 2, 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Sleepy Eye Event Center. Donors will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.

The American Red Cross is urging eligible donors to give more life to patients now and into the new year by giving blood or platelets.

Donations decline during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, when busy holiday schedules cause regular donors to be less available to give and many blood drives may be canceled due to severe winter storms. Last year, nearly 64,000 fewer blood and platelet donations were given through the Red Cross during the seven weeks from Thanksgiving through the first week of January than the average during the rest of the year.

“By taking just about an hour of time today, you can help save someone’s life within a few weeks or even days of your donation,” said Sue Thesenga, Communications Manager of the Red Cross North Central Blood Services Region. “We’re asking donors to give now to help ensure blood is available when patients need it most.”

Blood is perishable and can only be replenished by volunteer donors. Red blood cells, the most transfused blood product, must be transfused within 42 days. Platelets, the tiny cells that form clots and help stop bleeding, must be transfused within just five days. More than half of all platelet donations go to cancer patients who may need platelet transfusions to prevent life-threatening bleeding during chemotherapy.

“Platelet donors don’t have to wait a few weeks to make a difference in a patient’s life,” said Thesenga. “Someone could donate platelets on Monday, and by Friday, those same platelets can help someone’s fight to kick cancer.”

Kelly Ellison certainly knows that. Twenty-eight weeks into her third pregnancy, she was raced to the hospital with uncontrollable bleeding and received a doubly devastating diagnosis. Not only did she have aplastic anemia – a rare blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells – doctors also detected kidney cancer. Kelly received 43 units of blood and platelets. Five weeks later she gave birth prematurely to her son, who also needed blood transfusions to survive.

“Our lives have been forever changed because of lifesaving blood and platelet donations,” said Ellison. “Every breath I take is a blessing!”

All blood types are needed this winter. Donation appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

As a special thank-you for taking the time to donate, those who come to give Dec. 21 through Jan. 7 will receive a long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.