Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9362 will remember one of its own — Harry Ripp — and his community service by hosting an American Red Cross Blood Drive from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11 at the post, located at 349 S. Walker Way.

“Harry has been involved in our community over the years. He was involved with the Library foundation fund raising, Madison East Rotary Club, Meals on Wheels, and served as the Chaplain at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9362 and many other programs,” remarked VFW Post 9362 Junior Vice Commander Jim Farmer about Ripp, who was a Vietnam veteran.

The poster for the event states Ripp had many blood transfusions during his battle with a rare type of Leukemia, caused by Agent Orange after serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

The Red Cross continues to confront relentless challenges due to COVID-19, including about a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

Kala Breder knows all too well how dire not having blood available can be. In July 2020, hours after the birth of her son by emergency Cesarean section, Breder developed a complication and began bleeding uncontrollably. As doctors fought to save her life, they exhausted the entire blood supply at the hospital as well as all available blood within a 45-mile radius. Ultimately, she was flown to another hospital because there wasn’t enough blood locally.

Breder credits the 58 different blood products she received with helping save her life. “Without one of those, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I needed every last unit.”

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission.

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

During the next month, about 60% of donation appointments remain unfilled in the Wisconsin Red Cross Region.

To make an appointment for the Harry Ripp Memorial Blood Drive, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code SunPrairie. Donors can save up to 15 minutes when donating blood by using RapidPass — visit RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass for more information.

—American Red Cross contributed to this article