An Inland Empire blood bank Friday initiated a six-week fundraiser that seeks donors willing to shave their heads or faces for money that will ultimately help the nonprofit purchase a new “Blood Mobile.”

“Operation SOS” will run to Feb. 28 and has a fundraising goal of $50,000, according to LifeStream.

The “shave-or-save” campaign encourages participants to garner sponsorships within their network of friends and colleagues, who can pledge money for the nominee to shave his face, or his or her head.

“I have friends, family and colleagues lining up to contribute to my shave goal,” LifeStream CEO Dr. Rick Axelrod said. “I’ve pledged not to exercise the `save’ option if my goal is met. This will be the first time I have been clean shaven in more than 40 years.”

Axelrod has sported a mustache since he was 18 years old.

Officials said that the blood bank would gladly take blood donations in lieu of monetary sponsorships.

LifeStream announced last month that its blood stocks were at a direly low level, impacting how much product it would be able to supply to more than 80 medical facilities in the Inland Empire and other parts of Southern California.

“This shortage puts patient care at risk, and we ask our community to stand with those patients and their loved ones by `rolling up a sleeve’ and sharing their most precious gift,” Axelrod said at the end of December.

Operation SOS was hatched as part of National Blood Donor Month, according to organizers.

Raising $50,000 would cover the cost of a Blood Mobile that can be stationed in virtually any location for blood drives, officials said.

“These funds will help us replace one older Blood Mobile with a new eco-friendly one this year,” Axelrod said. “Each unit of blood we collect has the potential to save up to three local patients’ lives.”

Prizes will be awarded for participants who meet sponsorship goals. Anyone who raises a minimum of $500 will be eligible to win two round-trip tickets to any U.S. destination served by Southwest Airlines, according to LifeStream.

More information about the fundraiser is available at www.lstream.org/sos. A list of blood donation sites can also be found via the portal, or by calling 1-800-879-4484.

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