For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and vacation season. For the American Red Cross, Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of a seasonal decline and blood and platelet donations.

As people travel and take vacation during the warmer months, regular donations to the Red Cross blood supplies begin to taper off, as even the most dedicated donors' schedules get busy. The Red Cross relies on volunteers for the 15,000 blood donations needed every day to support patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide, according to a news release from the organization.

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In past summers, we've reported critical shortages of blood, when the Red Cross has warned it was in danger of not being able to fill some orders from hospitals.

While there are no current shortages, Red Cross officials know those days are coming, as they do every year. That's why, beginning Memorial Day, the Red Cross will kick off its "100 Days of Summer. 100 Days of Hope." campaign, which runs through Labor Day.

Carroll residents will have a few opportunities to donate blood around the county at organized blood drives, including one today, May 20, at the Taneytown Fire Hall from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Other opportunities include May 26 at the Westminster Moose Lodge, May 27 at the South Carroll Senior and Community Center, and June 2 at the American Legion Post 223 in Sykesville.

Baseball fans willing to make the drive can donate blood Saturday, May 30, at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards and receive two free vouchers to a coming Orioles home game.

You can make an appointment for or get more information on these and future blood drives online at http://www.redcrossblood.org or by calling 1-800-733-2767.

In order to give blood, you must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good general health and feeling well, and not have donated in the past 56 days. A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.

We know that giving blood is probably the last thing on your mind as your get ready for summer. But remember, patients don't get to take a vacation from needing blood. Don't take a vacation from donating it.

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