For Airdrie REALTORS® Matt and Michelle Carre, giving back is second nature.

The couple and their two children ditched Calgary’s big-city life for the quiet, laid-back and connected vibe of Airdrie 13 years ago.

A few years later, in 2013, they started the Airdrie Angel Program, a grassroots initiative that assists struggling families and individuals in the community by offering needs-based, streamlined gift baskets filled with cash and gift cards totalling between $1,500 and $2,000.

“Sometimes people are struck down with a life-changing event or experience. Their lives are turned upside down in an instant. This program is set up to be a light along the way to lift their spirits,” said Matt Carre.

As one of the program’s first gift recipients, Robyn Land knows firsthand just how helpful the initiative can be. Six years ago, her son Wyatt was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before birth. Land and her husband were told that Wyatt would have to undergo three major heart surgeries while he was still an infant.

“Sometimes people are struck down with a life-changing event or experience. Their lives are turned upside down in an instant. This program is set up to be a light along the way to lift their spirits.” – Matt Carre, Airdrie Angel Program co-founder

His first surgery took place just after he was born. “We had just finished the first surgery and Wyatt was in critical condition when we received the gift basket,” said Land.

The gift basket was filled with grocery gift cards, Visa gift cards, cash and many other items.

“It wasn’t just about the financial assistance, but to know that there was a community behind us, that was so comforting,” she said.

Land is currently at the pediatric cardiac unit in Edmonton, where Wyatt, who is now six, is undergoing his third and final surgery.

“He’s doing so well,” she said. “He is the doctor’s rock star.”

Land joins numerous others whose lives have been touched by the program, which provides gifts to two recipients each month.

Recently, the Airdrie Angel Program marked its 100th gift recipient. To date, the organization has given out almost $200,000 worth of cash, gift cards and other items.

The Airdrie Angel Program began as a radio-based philanthropic campaign, but after a year, the Carres took a new direction, partnering with Suzy and Trevor Rounce of Switchback Creative to pivot the initiative to social media.

Recipients are nominated online through the organization’s website or Facebook, and then chosen by a six-person jury of community members.

“Because we take care of the administrative costs, we can pass along 100 per cent of the donations to the recipients,” said Carre.

“It’s so extremely rewarding and humbling to be part of this.”