The second annual American Red Cross Big Ten Challenge is in full swing at the University of Wisconsin as students continue to donate blood across campus this week.

The Red Cross is encouraging students, faculty and alumni of all 11 Big Ten universities to help patients in need by participating in the challenge, which runs through Feb. 18.

According to a Red Cross statement, this year’s goal is for the schools to collectively donate 8,300 pints of blood.

Schools will receive awards based on four categories, including the highest number of blood donations, highest percentage of student body participation, highest percentage of goal achievement and best overall ranking, the statement said.

The Big Ten Challenge comes at a time of year when donations tend to decline in the winter due to illness and cold weather, American Red Cross Team Supervisor Linda Gardner said.

She added the Big Ten Challenge is a great way to get students motivated about donating blood.

“We receive a lot of blood from college students,” Gardner said. “Their enthusiasm is awesome. We want to keep students interested and engaged in blood drives and the Big Ten Challenge really helps us do that.”

UW contributed approximately 18 pints of blood from just one blood drive at the Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel last Friday.

UW sophomore Carl Markgren, a student who donated blood at the event on Friday, said he donates blood because it is one of the easiest things for students to do in order to make a big difference.

“Donating blood is a great cause,” Markgren said. “It doesn’t cost me anything and it’s a great thing to do for others.”

The next blood drive will be held at UW’s Microbial Sciences Building this Wendesday.

Other blood drives will follow at the Wisconsin Union Chapel and various UW residence and dining halls across campus throughout the competition.

Gardner said she was very grateful for the efforts of UW students who donated blood.

“[UW students] come out to donate on a regular basis and provide a lot of blood that is not only used to help patients in Wisconsin but all across the United States,” Gardner said.