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Call it the perfect holiday gift

The American Red Cross wants to make sure the blood supply remains adequate over the next month. Two blood drives are coming up in River Falls. <i>Submitted photo</i>

The holidays around Christmas and New Year's don't bring good tidings to the American Red Cross.

"We usually see a dip in blood donations from now until after the first of the year," said Sue Gonsior, communications program manager for the regional Red Cross in St. Paul. "This time of year means people are celebrating the holidays, out shopping, or prevented from giving blood because of illness or bad weather."

When donations drop, the nation's blood supply that is vulnerable.

"While the need for blood is constant, the supply isn't," Gonsior said.

For that reason, Gonsior is called attention the Red Cross's "Perfect Holiday Gift" campaign running through Dec. 31 - "the gift that cannot be wrapped."

"Your gift of blood could be saving a life, even in your own someday," Gonsior said.

Blood donation drives are occurring all over western Wisconsin this month. There are two in River Falls:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at River Falls Area Hospital, 1629 E. Divisions St.
  • Friday, Dec. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at American Red Cross in River Falls, 717 N. Main St.

"It's a very easy process," Gonsior said. "It takes about an hour of a person's time."

Donors are first registered, have their health history briefly reviewed, and are given quick "mini-physicals."

The actual drawing of a pint of blood takes less than 10 minutes.

Soon after that donors are allowed to get up slowly and move around. They are offered refreshments, and juice or water.

Blood that's donated typically stays in the Twin Cities area -- an "area" that extends to western Wisconsin and eastern South Dakota. Of course, if there's a disaster, Gonsior says the blood goes where it's most needed.

Gonsior said that summer is another season where Red Cross blood donations dip. People are away on vacations, school is out, and there are often plenty of natural disasters like flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Gonsior said high school and college-age students make up one-fifth of all blood donors. So when school is closed for the holidays or summer, donations drop noticeably.

Gonsior said all blood types are needed, but especially O negative.

"That's a universal blood type that can be given to anybody in an emergency," she said.

While people can just walk in to donate blood, registration is preferred.

"That helps us to schedule enough staff to be on hand," Gonsior said.

To register, call 1-800-733-2767 or go to

Donors need to be at least 17, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in generally good health.