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

Badges Unite for Sickle Cell kicks off on March 15th and organizers are encouraging communities of color to come out and participate. Sickle cell is a common and inherited blood disease that leaves a shortage of healthy red blood cells. It disproportionately impacts communities of color, 90 percent of those affected with sickle cell are African Americans.

“There’s really no cure for it but what we want to do is raise awareness and we also want people to come out. Particularly people of color to donate blood and that blood can actually go a long way at making people lives better. 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 difficult to get blood for the patients who really need it,” said Chris Olson, Chairman of Board of Directors at Western Massachusetts Red Cross.

People who suffer from sickle cell often need transfusions of unaffected blood to reduce health complications. The Red Cross encourages people to come out before next month’s blood drive with local first responders to donate.