Starting in July, 2008, 16 year olds in Minnesota could donate at Red Cross blood drives as long as they got a parent’s permission; with a high school blood drive set for Friday, we asked five RVHS students this week to find out why they donate.

Starting on July 1, 2008, 16 year olds in Minnesota could donate at Red Cross blood drives as long as they got a parent’s permission. Since then, the number of 16 year old donors has grown to the point that 20 percent of blood donations come from high school and college students. Since that time, the number of 16-year-old blood donors across the state has grown steadily. And teens have become an important demographic for the Red Cross. Today, approximately twenty percent of Red Cross blood donations come from high school and college students during the academic school year. The latest Redwood Valley High School blood drive is set for this Friday, April 4, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in the ice arena. Why do local teens choose to donate blood? The Gazette talked to five RVHS students this week to find out. Kayla Balcer Balcer is an old pro at blood donating. She’s already donated 15 times. “I donated for the first time the month after I turned 16,” she said. Very quickly, she developed a goal of donating two gallons before she graduates from RVHS in May of 2014. “The American Red Cross has a website you can check to see when you can donate again,” Balcer said. At one blood donation approximately every eight weeks, she was able to reach one gallon in about a year. Then circumstances made it a lot harder to reach the goal. For medical reasons she had to skip several potential donating opportunities in the past year. “I did the math, and knew I’d be cutting it a little close,” she said. “I started traveling everywhere to get a few more donations in. Sometimes I’ve donated in Echo, and once in Walnut Grove.” Why did donating blood to the Red Cross become so important to her? She shrugged, “It’s something I can do, so I do it. It’s not painful, and you feel good afterward. That makes it all worth it.” Dan Kohler Kohler’s involvement in blood donating goes back to when he helped out in the canteen, restocking the cookies for the donors. Since Dan’s mother is local Red Cross organizer Laura Kohler, he had an extra incentive to try donating. “I’m sure I would have donated anyway, because it’s a great decision to make.” On Friday Kohler plans to donate for the third time. “I was very nervous the first time, especially about the needle part. It was scary at first, but worth it. People are depending on you, so you should look into it. It’s never too late for you to donate.” Kirsten Schmidt A junior this year, Schmidt, 17, plans to donate for the third time on Friday. Why did she start? “My sister did it once, and she told me I should try it,” Schmidt said. When she showed up at the community center to donate for the first time, “I was really nervous, but it wasn’t so bad. They had to check my heart rate twice,” she admits. “My goal is to donate a gallon by the time I graduate. “I actually got my mother to try it, too. She’s a Type O, so she’s done double-red.” Carlee Heiling “I’m always sure to sign up the first day, because in case I get deferred, I can try again the second day,” said Heiling, who will try donating for the fifth time on Friday. She donated for the first time when her friend’s father was headed out to donate, and asked the girls if they’d want to go. “My mom had to come and sign me up at the National Guard Armory,” Heiling said. “At first I was nervous about it. I still am! Sometimes my hemoglobin is too low. Then I go home and eat lots of food that’s high in iron, and drink lots of water. Then I try again the next day. “Donating blood doesn’t hurt at all, but if you feel any pain, it’s worth it. It’s good pain, because you’re making a difference. Tamarah Frank When Frank got her drivers licence, she decided becoming a blood donor would be a logical next step. She’s donated five times since then. “I’ve convinced a couple other students to be first timers and go with me,” she said. “It just seems like a good thing to do. Frank, whose blood type is O+, said, “I’ve been asked to do double-reds, but I haven’t yet. “The worst part of donating blood is the finger prick.” And the best part? “I like the Special K bars. They’re a perk,” she laughed. For more information about the RVHS blood drive on April 4, contact Kenzie Manthei at 507-829-3139. Also, the Redwood Falls community blood drive is Monday & Tuesday, April 14th & 15th, from 1 - 7 p.m. at the National Guard Armory. People can make an appointment by calling me at 641-8131, or going to