As a self-diagnosed trypanophobiac (a person who fears needles), needles are something that I try to avoid. But in an economy where people have enough problems with health care and in a world where earthquakes can shake one third of a country to the ground, I think I am going to have to start facing my fear. Yesterday, the American Red Cross Big Ten Blood Challenge began. The competition, which lasts one month, is inclusive to every person affiliated with the University. And on a campus comprised of over 41,000 students and more than 6,000 faculty members, there is no reason that everyone shouldn’t be walking around with at least an “I tried” sticker.

Every two seconds, a person somewhere in the world needs blood. But blood is something that can only come from a viable, willing donor. There is no alternative or substitute. Every time a donor gives blood, one simple pint, he or she potentially saves three lives. That means that if every person on campus gave one pint of blood, our campus alone could help approximately 141,000 people.

For college students, it is often difficult to find ways to be involved or do something substantial for global problems. Giving money is often an option that many of us don’t have due to the financial burdens of housing and tuition. Providing aid, in terms of manual labor, is something that isn’t realistic because of our location and the time demanded by school commitments. This opportunity is a way for students to contribute something that is beneficial to any cause.

Giving blood is a form of aid that can be valuable to any race, demographic or country. The donation can help someone in a hospital down the street who is having surgery or someone who is being treated with chemotherapy. Or the blood can be stored and used in the event of a catastrophic situation, like Hurricane Katrina. Blood shortages also occur frequently across the country, especially in blood types O negative and AB positive, the rarer blood types. The American Red Cross is unable to foresee an emergency or a shortage, so having as many people donate blood whenever they can provides the organization with a comfortable cushion.

Unfortunately, there are people who are unable to donate blood. Certain people are not allowed to give because of personal medical problems or personal choices. Donors also must be 17 years old and weigh at least 110 lbs. But if everyone at least went down to a blood bank and attempted to donate, the community would have a better overall performance. The blood drive relies on a ripple effect. If someone is sitting with two friends and decides he or she is going to go give blood and is able to encourage his or her friends to tag along, the blood drive has been further advertised and hopefully has gained a few more pints.

This year, more than ever, people on campus should take advantage of the blood battle. There are stations set up around campus almost every day from Jan. 19 to Feb. 19, providing ample opportunities to fit an hour into your day over the next four weeks. This chance is very rarely so convenient. You can make an appointment in advance at www.givelife.org.

There are many things on this campus that divide our society. Religious beliefs, political views and opinions about lifestyle all factor into how the melting pot of this University remains segregated. But, this is one topic that no one can argue over. Giving blood is solely a beneficial act. There is no other side to the argument. And if you too suffer from trypanophobia, just remember that afterward you get a free cookie and perhaps a feeling of accomplishment that you did something selfless and rewarding.

Emily Orley is a senior editorial page editor.

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