Mark Twain High School answers the call to an emergency need

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.

The American Red Cross is in an emergency situation, with a growing need for all types of blood. Blood is being distributed from hospitals faster than it is currently coming in, said Joe Zydio, External Communications Manager for Blood Services Missouri-Illinois Region. He said that the period beginning in June and running after July 4 is an emergency period for many reasons — 20 percent of blood donations to the Red Cross come from schools, which are largely out of session during the summer. And Zydio said many families are vacationing, participating in traveling sports or other summer activities that take the focus off donating.

But the Red Cross uses various ways to reach out to past donors, and it released a new Blood Donor mobile application that helps donors find the nearest blood drive and streamline the donation process. In Ralls County, members of the the Mark Twain High School Honor Society answered the call with a blood drive Thursday, July 12 in the Mark Twain Senior High School cafeteria.

Answering the call

For Junior and Honor Society member Olivia Graves, the drive served as a way for the Honor Society members to take some time from their summer vacations to make an impact.

“One of the biggest things that I think is important is that our members of the National Honor Society take time out of their summer to do it,” she said. “It definitely makes an impact — it shows that we are definitely going to care — we’re here on our time to make a difference.”

First-time donor Cheryl Woodward talked with American Red Cross Supervisor Justine Sipe as they prepared for the donation procedure.

“I always wanted to try it at least once, to see if I liked it or not, how it was,” she said. “And I just like to help other people.”

Woodward said she felt nervous at first, but she was at ease and smiling as she talked with Sipe. During this time of critical need, Sipe said the American Red Cross was “pretty desperate for blood donors, especially Type Os.”

Power Red donations, which provide a concentrated dose of red blood cells, are also in high demand. Sipe said it counts as a double donation, and the Power Red donation is recommended for people with Type O negative, Type O positive, Type A negative or Type B negative.

For anyone who is considering giving blood, Woodward didn’t hesitate to offer her advice.

“I would say go for it,” she said.

A need that never ceases

Zydio said the American Red Cross reaches out through social media platforms, sends emails to past donors and reaches out to media outlets whenever there is a blood drive during this crucial time. He spoke with a blood bank manager who told him that when blood supplies are down 30 or 40 percent, that could mean “the difference between life or death” for an accident victim or other patient who needs a certain blood type for a transfusion, surgery or other procedure.

Zydio stressed how the emergency need in the Missouri-Illinois region could affect someone close to home at a moment’s notice.

“You’d want somebody to do it to for you, you’d want somebody to do it for a family member — or God forbid, if something ever happened to somebody you loved or somebody you knew, you’d want blood to be on the shelves and ready to go if they needed it,” he said. “It’s just so important to donate. Whether it’s [Thursday] or whether they come out next week, please donate as soon as possible, so we can help.”

To learn more about how to help the American Red Cross, please visit The mobile app is free for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at