The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith will kick off its year of blood drives with a drive from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 28-29 in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center.

With January being National Blood Donor Appreciation Month, all donors will receive a free gel pack. Additionally, donors will be able to relax in the tropical-themed "Donor Den," where they will receive alcohol-free cocktails free of charge.

More than 800 people have given blood at the drives on UAFS campus in the last year. The September blood drive saw 236 people give blood, and UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul B. Beran lauded the selflessness of the donors.

"Blood donors are vital in making sure the Arkansas Blood Institute’s (ABI) blood supply is kept at a healthy level," he said. "And UAFS faculty, students and staff have done their part in helping to save lives in both our region and our state."

UAFS conducts four blood drives annually between September and April, with two each semester. The blood is given to the ABI, who distributes the blood to 14 hospitals in western Arkansas, including Sparks Health System and Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith.

Appointments for the blood drive may be made by signing up at a table in the Campus Center hallway, by emailing or by calling 479-788-7697. Walk-ins are also welcome.