The American Red Cross is desperate for donations throughout the summer season and especially over the 4th of July weekend.

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

“When people don’t donate, the blood supply is affected, so it can be difficult to ensure blood is available when hospitals need it,” said Diane Concannon, director of communications for the Cross Red in the New Jersey area.

The platelets, which only have a shelf life of five days, are particularly needed at this time, as they are crucial in the treatment of 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 around 15 minutes with the “fast pass” available on their website. If you download blood donor collection, you can even see where your blood is delivered and subsequently used.

The American Red Cross is particularly interested in receiving blood from donors of diverse races, ethnicities, and blood types in an effort to help patients fight sickle cell disease. She said the Red Cross screens 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 helpful and more beneficial,” she said. “We’re asking black donors to make sure they come to donate and identify as black, so that screenings for those traits can be tested in your blood to see if they’re there, and to see if that blood could actually directly benefit a person with sickle cell disease.

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

“The need for blood is constant,” Concannon said. “He doesn’t take a summer vacation.”

If you are interested in donating, visit RedCrossBlood.org to enter your postal code and find the blood donation site closest to you. You must be in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds to be eligible.

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