Summer has always been a challenge for blood donations because schools are closed so they can't hold drives and people are on vacation, unavailable to donate. So, it's critically important for donors to make appointments now to help maintain a stable blood supply.

"Sadly, the need for life-saving blood transfusions never takes a break. So, it's important for us to have blood ready to go when every second counts," said Diane Concannon, communications director at The American Red Cross New Jersey.

She said there is no substitution for blood and there is no way to manufacture it. Volunteer donors are the only sources of blood products for patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, car accident victims, or even parents experiencing difficult childbirths.

Blood drives are always welcome, said Concannon. The American Red Cross continues to follow all high standards of safety and infection control, as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. They will continue to socially distance themselves at drives whenever possible.

Staff and donors are not required to wear masks but whoever wants to, may choose to do so.

The Red Cross is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies for a limited time. Results may indicate if the donor's immune system has produced antibodies to COVID after vaccination or past exposure, regardless of whether they have developed symptoms.

Plasma from routine blood, platelet, and plasma donations that have a high level of COVID antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma to meet any potential future needs of COVID patients.

Concannon said that across New Jersey and in the Greater Philadelphia region, The American Red Cross needs to collect at least 600 units of blood per day. That's based on the demand from the hospitals.

"The need is constant," she said.

All blood types are needed especially O+ and O-. Type AB plasma and platelet donors are especially needed right now, as well.

To help with the summer blood donation shortage, some incentives are being offered. Concannon said The American Red Cross has partnered with Suburban Propane to offer blood donors a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice from now until May 19.

All who donate will also be entered to win a travel trailer camper that sleeps eight.

Those who donate between May 20 and 31, will receive an exclusive 20-ounce Red Cross aluminum water bottle and customizable sticker set, while supplies last.

"May is also Trauma Awareness Month. We need to have blood already on the shelves that can help save lives during emergencies," Concannon said.

Donors can help save a life in just one hour. To schedule an appointment to donate blood, platelets, and plasma or to find the nearest blood drive, visit www.redcrossblood.org or download the Red Cross donor app.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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These are the best hiking spots in New Jersey

A trip to New Jersey doesn't have to be all about the beach. Our state has some incredible trails, waterfalls, and lakes to enjoy.

From the Pine Barrens to the Appalachian Trail to the hidden gems of New Jersey, you have plenty of options for a great hike. Hiking is such a great way to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, plus it's a great workout.

Before you go out on the trails and explore some of our listeners' suggestions, I have some tips on hiking etiquette from the American Hiking Society.

If you are going downhill and run into an uphill hiker, step to the side and give the uphill hiker space. A hiker going uphill has the right of way unless they stop to catch their breath.

Always stay on the trail, you may see side paths, unless they are marked as an official trail, steer clear of them. By going off-trail you may cause damage to the ecosystems around the trail, the plants, and wildlife that live there.

You also do not want to disturb the wildlife you encounter, just keep your distance from the wildlife and continue hiking.

Bicyclists should yield to hikers and horses. Hikers should also yield to horses, but I’m not sure how many horses you will encounter on the trails in New Jersey.
If you are thinking of bringing your dog on your hike, they should be leashed, and make sure to clean up all pet waste.

Lastly, be mindful of the weather, if the trail is too muddy, it's probably best to save your hike for another day.

I asked our listeners for their suggestions of the best hiking spots in New Jersey, check out their suggestions: