Catonsville Middle School hosted an American Red Cross blood drive this week, giving students volunteer experience and drawing more than 21 donors, many of whom were regulars.
"I just think everyone everywhere should do it," Catonsville resident Megan Ossing said before donating blood. Ossing said she attends blood drives regularly because she had a daughter who died of a brain tumor and needed platelets.
Jenn Taylor, the school's Parent Teacher Student Association secretary and coordinator of the blood drive, said that 21 people signed up in advance for the Oct. 17 drive.
Between walk-in donors and a few who donated multiple units of blood, a process the Red Cross calls "Power Red," the drive collected 25 units, about one pint.
Taylor said many of the donors she spoke to were experienced ones who give "year after year."
According to the Red Cross, 50 percent of their donors are "regular, loyal donors," while 24 percent donate occasionally and 26 percent are first-time donors.
Blood donations are used for treating patients with diseases such as sickle cell disease and cancer, as well as after emergencies such as car accidents. The Red Cross estimates that 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
The regional chapter of the Red Cross said that the drive comes at a time when the organization is typically in need of more donations.
"We are approaching the holiday season," Lenore Koors, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake Region, said. "That traditionally is a time when our supply isn't as robust as we need it to be, as people get busy in the fall into the holiday season."
The drive covered half of the school's wood floor gymnasium. Behind blue privacy screens, donors received brief physical exams on one side of the room, while Red Cross employees wove around donors on raised chairs in the center. Middle school students shuttled juice and snacks at donors' requests.
Abigail Mitchell, 13, said she was volunteering to log service hours, which she said are required to graduate high school. Seeing the needles and blood being drawn, she said, did not bother her.
"I told some of my friends I was doing it, and they said they couldn't do it," she said.
Tina Nassehi, a biochemistry major in her last year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said she donates blood whenever she can — she said she is restricted by a waiting period after she travels to her home country, Iran.
"I just think it's needed," Nassehi said of donating blood. She said that after attending multiple blood drives in the area, she now sees familiar faces among the nurses and donors.