One Year Later, 16-Year-Old Minnesota Donor Legislation Opens the Door for Teens
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Joe Gibson, the Blooming Prairie, Minn. teen who initiated legislation allowing Minnesota 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental/guardian consent last July, feels good knowing that in one year, 3,790 16-year-olds gave 4,520 pints of blood equaling approximately 565 gallons at American Red Cross blood drives throughout Minnesota to help patients in need.
In 2008, Gibson worked with Representative Patti Fritz and Senator Kathy Sheran with the Red Cross' support to introduce and pass the 16-year-old donor bill. On March 18, 2008, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the bill into law becoming effective July 1, 2008.
"We simply opened the door for more youth to help save lives," said Gibson, now 17 years old. "They were the ones who walked through it and made this opportunity something special."
Sixteen-year-olds now comprise more than 3 percent of the total Red Cross blood donor base in Minnesota and teens (ages 16-19) comprise almost 20 percent. There is no upper age limit to donate blood.
"Youth play an important role in helping to ensure blood supplies are stable," said Geoff Kaufmann, CEO of the North Central Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. "By donating blood and encouraging others to give the gift of life, youth can help create a new generation of regular blood donors who are ready to take the place of those who can no longer give."
The Red Cross encourages all blood donors, especially first-time and young donors, to take a few easy steps to prepare for a good donation experience: Get a good night's sleep, eat a good meal and drink extra water or other non-caffeinated fluids.
Minnesota was the 23rd state to pass legislation or adopt variances recognizing 16-year-olds as eligible voluntary blood donors with parental/guardian consent. Thirty states now allow 16-year-olds to donate blood. Wisconsin passed similar legislation on March 14, 2008.
Gibson joined the Red Cross' board of directors last summer as a youth representative. Beginning June 24, Gibson opened another door, this time in Liege, Belgium at a six-week idea-sharing project with the Belgian Red Cross. The focus again will be on youth – how each Red Cross keeps youth engaged through the summer, especially with blood donation. Gibson will tour blood services facilities, attend blood drives, and meet and talk with Belgian Red Cross youth specialists, CEOs and marketing personnel.
For more information about blood donation and to schedule an appointment simply call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543) or visit givebloodgivelife.org. All blood types are needed, especially O and Rh negative types. A blood donor card or driver's license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Eligible donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 years old with a signed Red Cross parental/guardian consent form where state permits, must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
The North Central Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross is the largest blood supplier in Minnesota, serving 111 hospitals in the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, western Wisconsin and eastern South Dakota. Governed by volunteers and supported by giving individuals and communities, the American Red Cross is the single largest supplier of blood products to hospitals throughout the United States. While local hospital needs are always met first, the Red Cross also helps ensure no patient goes without blood no matter where or when they need it. In addition to providing nearly half of the nation's blood supply, the Red Cross provides relief to victims of disaster, trains millions in lifesaving skills, serves as a communication link between U.S. military members and their families, and assists victims of international disasters or conflicts.