Blood banks hope a change in Kansas law will prompt 16-year-olds to step forward and help meet the constant demand for more donations.
"I'm sure it will boost donations," said Leann DeLong, recruitment representative with Community Blood Center, 1410 Kasold Drive. "When we go to high schools, we have a lot of kids who are 16 ask (if they can donate). They want to do it."
Last week, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed into law a bill that drops the age limit for donating blood without parental consent from 17 to 16. Kansas is only the 11th state to pass such legislation.
"Traditionally, 16 is an age where young people accept new responsibilities and our hope is that they continue to donate throughout the rest of their lives," said Jay Menitove, executive director and medical director of Community Blood Center.
Despite the law change, the American Red Cross is sticking to the parental consent requirement at its blood drives. Forms are available at its Web site, bloodgiveslife.org.
"That's just to be a little more protective of our donors and be a little bit safer," said Norma Dixon, spokeswoman for the Red Cross district headquarters in Wichita.
A chance to give
In Lawrence, 16-year-olds have a chance to donate through Saturday during a special blood drive at the Community Blood Center, 1410 Kasold Drive. To help meet the latest demand for blood and encourage donations, the center is giving donors coupons for free car washes at Auto Plaza Car Wash, 2828 Four Wheel Drive. Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
Red Cross officials, however, hope publicity about the change in state law will increase interest in donating among 16-year-olds.
"We've already had several 16-year-olds donate," Dixon said. "We're encouraging them to tell their parents and bring them in."
That also is the hope of Jane Blocher, director of the Douglas County Chapter of the Red Cross. In addition to bolstering blood supplies, 16-year-olds will be taught a new responsibility, she said.
"Donating blood is a community service," Blocher said. "The younger we can start them, the more it becomes ingrained in them how important it is to give back to their community. They can become lifelong donors."
The Red Cross and Community Blood Center are making plans to educate 16-year-olds about the importance of donating blood in conjunction with future blood drives. While the number of 17-year-olds donating blood have been minimal, Blocher said she hopes that, too, will change.
On Sept. 6, Topeka High School will become the first high school in the state to have a blood drive.
The age limit for donating blood for money without parental consent remains 18.