Throughout January, the American Red Cross is celebrating National Blood Donor Month and recognizing the generous individuals who roll up a sleeve to help save lives. The winter months can be especially difficult to collect enough blood and platelets to meet patient needs, and this winter is proving to be a challenging one.

This week’s predicted storm will likely have a large impact on the amount of blood available to help treat patients. Already since the beginning of January, dozens of Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled in approximately 20 states due to inclement weather, resulting in about 3,000 units of blood uncollected. Additionally, the flu is widespread across the country and may be preventing many regular blood and platelet donors from keeping their scheduled appointments.

National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 and recognizes the importance of giving blood and platelets while honoring those who roll up a sleeve to help patients in need. Some have volunteered countless hours in the donor chair and serve as a special inspiration to others.

In the Midwest, two blood donors are reaching a major milestone. Al Thomas, of York, Nebraska, has donated 35 gallons of blood. Al is humble in expressing why he started donating 50 years ago. “To help other people,” Al said. “It’s the least I can do.”

Bob Allen, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is right on the heels of fellow blood donor Al. Bob is expected to reach 35 gallons this spring. At 85-years-young, donating blood is just one of the ways he stays involved in his community, along with other volunteer activities like serving on the local ski patrol.

Though winter weather and seasonal illness may affect donations, hospital patients still need transfusions of blood and platelets. Eligible donors who feel well and live in areas not affected by winter weather are encouraged to make an appointment to give now. Donors with all blood types, particularly O negative, A negative and B negative, and platelet donors are encouraged to make an appointment to give. Each appointment kept, and each donation given, offers hope to a patient in need.

Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, or, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.

This article was originally posted on the American Red Cross website.