PRATT — Every 56 days, a healthy person may donate blood and that blood has the potential to save three other lives, said Jan Hale, American Red Cross communications manager.

Pratt area residents rolled up their sleeves earlier this month, and among those donating was Mike Martin, of Pratt.

Martin, who has regularly donated blood for more than three decades, said he got started for a very personal reason. Years ago, his son needed heart surgery. The family was asked to donate blood so a supply would be on hand. The surgery was a success and it prompted Martin to continue to give blood for a very simple reason.

"It's needed," Martin said.

There are many uses for blood. A young mother may need it during birth, a cancer patient may need it during chemo therapy, an accident victim may need it immediately to stay alive.

"There's lots of different ways blood is used," Hale said. "And everyone appreciates it."

Pratt area residents can donate locally every 56 days when the Red Cross has a blood drive at the Pratt Community Center. The Red Cross depends heavily on mobile blood drives to maintain a fresh supply. About 80 percent of all blood collected comes from these mobile drives, Hale said.

The Red Cross has issued an appeal for more donations. Especially needed are O negative donors. O negative is a universal donor so anyone one needing blood can use it. O negative is very rare blood that only occurs in about seven percent of the population, Hale said.

Right now, blood donations are down because of the holidays and there were storms in January that prevented donors from making donations. Flu cases are also reducing the number of donors so people are encouraged to contact the Red Cross and set up an appointment to make a donation, Hale said.

People can set up a donation time online at redcrossblood.org then plug their zip code. Donors can call 1-800-REDCROSS to make an appointment or use the Blood Donor app.