It's time to give the kind of gift that can't be bought in a store. The American Red Cross is asking you to become a "holiday hero" by donating blood today.

The 12 Hours of Giving Blood Drive goes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Inwood Oaks. The Red Cross says the 12-hour window provides a chance to make up for the dip in donations that tends to happen this time of year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, most of us are pretty busy entertaining family, shopping, eating.

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But Mike McMahon makes time to give. He's signed up to roll up his sleeves at 12 Hours of Giving.

"Big event like this, definitely," McMahon said.

He has donated blood before.

"When I lived in Colorado, when I was in high school, just randomly throughout my life," he said.

But two years ago, his reason for giving blood changed from random to meaningful.

"I had a tree fall on me and I caught a 75-foot maple tree in my lap," he said.

He flung back so hard, ligaments holding his skull to his uppermost vertebra tore.

"They call it internal decapitation," he said.

Doctors had to bolt his head back on.

"During that surgery ... I had to have 11 units of blood to keep me alive," McMahon said.

He would need an additional seven units due to a bad ulcer from the medication he was taking.

"My goal is to give all 18 back," he said.

After today's blood drive, he'll only have two more to go.

"I remember getting the first bag of blood," he said. "They hung it up and it was just unbelievably emotional to me. I think I started tearing up, crying, looking at my family and just really understand like somebody gave me this life."

Inwood Oaks is located at 484 Inwood Ave. N. in Oakdale.

How to donate blood:

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver's license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. In Minnesota, you may also be eligible at 16 years old with parental consent. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

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