The doctor is holding and showing a red heart.

First responders know firsthand that you can’t wait for an emergency to donate because it’s the blood already on the shelves that saves lives.

They’re encouraging the public to donate blood for the First Responders Holiday Blood Drive Challenge this December. Those who do will receive a voucher for a free 10-inch pizza at Streets of New York.

“With many schools transitioned to virtual learning and businesses in work-from-home situations, 376 blood drives were canceled in November and December alone, resulting in approximately 8,000 uncollected donations,” said Sid Lewis, senior director of donor recruitment for the Vitalant Southwest Division. “Because blood has a shelf life of 42 days, donations given in November can help save lives through New Year’s Day.”

Donors of all blood types are needed for the holiday season, especially O-negative, the universal type used in emergencies and traumas.

Donors help first responders like Phoenix Police Officer Santos Robles, who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty on July 4. A few days later, he passed out due to the lack of oxygen from pneumonia. When his son found him hours later, he was rushed to the hospital with broken facial bones, a punctured lung from a rib fracture and an oxygen level one-third below required levels.

Five convalescent plasma transfusions helped him helped him hold on to life during two hospital ICU stays. Robles finally recovered and was well enough to return to work in late October after fighting COVID-19 for 12 weeks.

Now recovered, he donates his plasma to help other people fighting COVID-19.

Vitalant continues to test blood and platelet donations for COVID-19 antibodies to find potential donors who could give convalescent plasma in the future.

To have your blood donation dedicated to first responders, simply schedule your appointment at vitalant.org/firstresponder or call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825).

Blood can be donated from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at Lowe’s Home Improvement, 34700 N. Cave Creek Road in Carefree.