Two-year-old Carter Luckhardt and his family spent his birthday at the Kitchener-Waterloo blood donor clinic.

It has become an annual tradition to celebrate the gift of blood Carter received as an infant.

“There’s so much joy in our life because he's here,” said Carter’s mother Becky.

Carter was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect that required multiple surgeries and several blood transfusions.

Carter Luckhardt

He was just 18 hours old when he had his first open heart surgery, his second at 12 days old. The second surgery took longer than seven hours and required multiple units of blood.

The parents relied on other people’s blood to save their son’s life, since they were not a match.

“We’re collecting blood in his honour,” said Matt Luckhardt, Carter’s father. “It’s a part of giving back.”

“We really hope that he gets to know what happened to him when he was younger and what it actually took. Hopefully he continues on with it and can do this for multiple years to come,” added Matt.

The family is encouraging others to come forward and donate blood.

With reporting from CTV Kitchener's Tyler Calver.