Terri Shinn had her work cut out for her.
As she explained the blood donation process, a Genoa middle school student asked her if the plasma in blood was the same type that's found in a plasma TV.
By using props, analogies, and language easily understood by children, the American Red Cross blood-donor recruitment representative used less than 15 minutes during a recent school assembly at the John C. Roberts Middle School to explain how students could become "pint-size heroes."
"Your job - if you wish - is to be a hero and help me out," Ms. Shinn said.
Students attending the Genoa school - and more than 100 schools throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan - are participating in the Pint-Size Heroes program, developed by the American Red Cross Blood Services' Western Lake Erie Region.
It's geared toward middle and elementary school children, who are given donor response cards and are challenged to recruit parents, family, friends, and neighbors to give blood at a drive hosted at their school.
It's rather difficult for adults to say "no" to a child asking their help in saving up to three lives with one blood donation, Ms. Shinn said.
The program, in existence for four years, has been leaping in popularity.
While just five schools participated when it was introduced, Ms. Shinn said that number has steadily grown by about 10 schools each year. This year, about 50 schools are involved.
Districts including Bedford and Toledo public schools; Fremont, Oregon, Sylvania, and Tiffin city schools; Benton-Carroll-Salem schools, and Perrysburg and Clyde-Green Springs exempted village schools, are participating.
This time of year is especially crucial because the Red Cross has less than a half-day's worth of the universal O negative blood in its inventory, said Judy Pearson, manager of communications and chapter relations for the organization.
"We always need all blood types," she said. "But from Thanksgiving all the way through the first week of January is a very difficult time for us to maintain our blood supplies due to family vacations and increased traumas."
The Red Cross needs 300 units of blood each day to serve 23 hospitals in 10 counties in northwest Ohio and one county in southeast Michigan.
Pint-size Heroes helps the Red Cross meet that quota, Ms. Shinn said.
Some Genoa students were somewhat wary about the program because they said they're uncomfortable around needles.
But after learning about blood, how it is used as a medicine, and that they're needed to recruit donors - and not give donations - the students were much more at ease. A donor must be at least 17 years old.
Seventh-grader Kayla Pickard, 12, said she's going to try to get as many adult family members as she can to donate. "People who are sick need help," Kayla said.
Beverly Elementary School in Toledo just wrapped up the program with a blood drive two weeks ago. Principal Linda Meyers said the 307 students at the Toledo Public school recruited 52 people who donated blood.
"I thought this was a good way to give back to the community in a nonmonetary fashion," she said.
While the general practice is for the Red Cross to contact a school and ask it to participate in the program, the student government at Powell Elementary School in the North Baltimore Local School District seized the initiative two years ago.
The student leaders asked Principal Marlene North if they could participate in a blood drive, and about 480 students recruited more than 80 people to give blood.
The students also pitched in to set up, clean up, greet people, and make sure snacks were in order during the blood drive.
"It was definitely worthwhile, because we had so many people giving blood that didn't give before," Ms. North said.
Contact Erika Ray at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6088.