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State Honoree

Avidan Ackerson

Maryland

Avidan Ackerson, 17, of Baltimore, Md., a senior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan High School, co-authored state legislation that now allows 16-year-olds in Maryland to donate blood. Avidan wanted to donate blood after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but was turned away after being told he needed to be 17. Disappointed yet curious, Avidan conducted his own personal research study and found no medical reason why a 16-year-old could not donate blood. He decided to try to change the law. “I thought that it was important to allow as many people to help as possible, because donating blood is giving the gift of life,” said Avidan. He contacted a state delegate, and together they drafted a bill. Avidan then testified before the House and Senate committees on the topic, sent petitions to schools throughout the state, and sought support from the Maryland Association of Student Councils. After the bill was passed, Avidan proudly witnessed its signing by the governor. He figures the expanded pool of potential blood donors in Maryland could ultimately help save thousands of lives, and is now working with students from other states to help them change their state laws. “All I did was question why a policy existed and it led to a new law,” said Avidan.