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Young blood donors key demographic in Minnesota

on March 25, 2014 11:00 AM

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — The number of 16-year-old blood donors in Minnesota has risen steadily since state law was changed in 2008 to allow their participation.

Teens are a key demographic in blood donations, Minnesota Red Cross communications program manager Sue Thesenga said.

“Twenty percent of our blood donations come to us from high school and college students in the academic year,” she said.

The number of participating 16-year-olds in Minnesota has grown from 3,700 donors in the 2009 fiscal year to 5,000 during the 2013 fiscal year, according to the St. Cloud Times.

[PHOTO: American Red Cross worker Scott Moore prepares to draw blood from Apollo High School student Hanna Pierskalla during a blood drive at the school in St. Cloud, Minn., Wednesday, March 20, 2014.  (AP Photo/The St. Cloud Times, Dave Schwarz)  ]

Thesenga estimates that 16-year-olds can now give blood with parental consent in 45 states. When the law was passed in Minnesota in 2008, that number was closer to 25.

“We hope that this becomes a lifetime commitment of community service and volunteerism,” Thesenga said.

Madeleine Herr, 16, donated blood last week at Apollo High School in St. Cloud. Herr, who wants to go into the medical field, said she had no trouble convincing her parents to sign the consent form — they encouraged it. Herr said giving blood is an easy way to help others.

Senior Kjersta Unzen chatted with Herr as she donated blood and sat beside Herr afterward. Unzen said she first became involved in the student union through the blood drive. Volunteering is an easy way to help out, she said.

Marcia Handahl is the adviser for the Apollo Student Union, an elected group of students who help organize a host of school activities, including the annual blood drive.

Handahl said about 15 of the 120 donors signed up were 16 years old. The school usually averages about 100 units collected per drive, she said.

Handahl estimates the school has been hosting the blood drive for about 20 years.

She said lowering the donor age provides another way more students can become involved at the school.

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