BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – News 4 is teaming up with the Red Cross to help save lives and we need your help.

Next week, we’re helping with a telethon to get new blood donors to sign up to give, and Red Cross reps say those donors are desperately needed right now.

“This is an extremely critical time. We’re in a shortage,” said Jay Bonafede, Regional Communications Officer for the Red Cross.

Winter is always tough for blood donations, Bonafede explained. Bad weather cancels a lot of blood drives and there just aren’t that many of them scheduled, since so many people get so busy over the holidays.

Now, the Red Cross needs donors to step up and take the available blood donation appointments, especially if they’re universal donors.

“There’s less than a three day supply right now of type O Negative blood,” Bonafede said.

Whatever your blood type, the need is constant.

The shelf life for many blood products is pretty short, and someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds in the United States.

“There’s no substitute. It’s not something that can be manufactured or something like that,” Bonafede pointed out. “The blood is needed when there’s surgeries, when there’s emergencies, for illnesses. I think people would be surprised to know how many people have needed a blood transfusion.”

Thankfully, dedicated donors give time and again to help meet the demand.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of them.

The Red Cross says only three percent of the people who are eligible to donate blood actually do it.

“There’s huge opportunities to make a difference. Every donation can help save up to three lives,” Bonafede said.

So, you are asked to give the Red Cross a call during Wednesday’s telethon with News 4 to sign up to donate blood.

Volunteers will be at the Red Cross office on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo answering phones to help you make an appointment that’s convenient for you.

There will also be a blood drive going on during the telethon, and potential donors are urged to make an appointment to give at that time.

If you are unable to donate blood, you can always sign up as a volunteer to help at a blood drive or with the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts. Monetary gifts are always needed, too.

However you can help, the Red Cross is counting on you.

“It’s a great way to give to the community to make a difference in someone’s life without really taking up that much of your own time,” Bonafede said. “So that’s what we’re hoping is to get some new donors who then become regular donors after they have that first experience.”

Bonafede says the goal is to get 50 new donors to sign up during Wednesday’s telethon.

You can watch on air and online on January 22 from noon until 7 p.m.