SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – This March the American Red Cross is hosting a blood drive with local police and fire departments.

In honor of Black History Month, the American Red Cross is working to increase the number of African-American blood donors. Sickle cell disease disproportionately impacts communities of color, it’s a common and inherited blood disease that leaves a shortage of healthy red blood cells.

More than 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease and it mostly affects those of African and Latino descent. Nia Rennix Executive Director of the central & western Massachusetts chapter of the American Red Cross is leading the effort alongside the western Massachusetts Board of Directors. “We’re asking for everyone to give blood but we’re really targeting the first responders it’s almost like if they can do it you can too. So that’s what we’re really focusing on,” Rennix said.

The Badges Unite Drive brings together local first responders from police and fire departments to donate blood to hopefully inspire the community to donate too. One in three African-American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease. The Red Cross says they are in need of blood donations from black and brown communities.

There’s really no cure for it but what we want to do is raise awareness and we also want people to come out. We don’t have as many people from the African-American community to come out and donate blood so sometimes we have a shortage and it’s very difficult to get blood for the patients who really need it,” Chris Olson Chairman of the Board of Directors western Massachusetts Red Cross.

Red Cross encouraging communities of color to donate blood for sickle cell patients

Sickle cell disease affects 1 out of every 365 African-Americans. People with sickle cell disease are in need of blood transfusions.

This March 15th everyone will have the chance to help out. Tim Nelson Fire Chief Amherst Fire Department and American Red Cross Board Member shows his support, “we come out and show them that we trust the process, that it’s a good thing to be a part of that will encourage folks that maybe have some degree of trepidation about donating blood that will help courage them to give blood.”

The Red Cross encourages people to come out and donate along with first responders. It’s simple to make an appointment, you can schedule it online and the donation process usually takes about 8 minutes. You can do so by clicking here.