Can Man Dan is a community initiative/fundraising group started by Dan Johnstone in June 2011 with the intent of alleviating poverty, hunger and homelessness in Alberta, Canada. Johnstone’s initiative started on small scale in 2011 when he would collect non-perishable food donations around his neighborhood and donate them to the Edmonton Food Bank or a local soup kitchen. Johnstone’s efforts were quickly recognized and applauded by many outlets of the community and he was soon joined by his fellow neighbors, complete strangers and various businesses (both locally owned & corporate franchises) who would help him raise food/money/resources for different charities of his choice. Johnstone’s efforts have been praised by several charities around Alberta, the community, various community leaders, politicians and local celebrities. Johnstone’s efforts and events have also been heavily featured on various media outlets throughout the years, both locally and nationally. As of January 2016, Dan has raised an estimated 250 000 pounds of food and over $150 000 for people in need, along with many other countless resources. Dan makes “zero financial gain” from his work as he believes helping people and promoting a positive message around his community is more important than making a “quick buck”.
Can Man Dan was created to support the same services that helped Dan and his family when he was growing up. Dan, along with his brother, grew up in Edmonton, in a single mother, low-income household and for years they struggled to make “ends meet” financially. Dan and his family relied heavily on many social programs and charities like the Edmonton Food Bank, just to “get by”. After Dan graduated High School in 2006 and secured a good paying full time job, he vowed to support and help those same services that his family had once used. Dan has publicly stated that he makes “zero financial gain” off the Can Man Dan initiative and just hopes that a few people will follow in his footsteps and start their own community initiative with the intent of making the world a better place. Johnstone’s ultimate goal is to continue to spread a positive message about helping people in need, raise awareness for different charities in need, and ultimately assist in the ending of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in Alberta by forming a united community.
Can Man Dan has had the pleasure of working with/supporting several different charities and non-profit groups around Alberta. Since 2011, Can Man Dan has worked with Edmonton’s Food Bank, Calgary’s Food Bank, Operation Friendship Seniors Society, The Bissell Centre, YESS, The Hope Mission, The Mustard Seed, The House Of Refuge, The Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank, The Wood Buffalo Food Bank, WIN House, SAFEQEY, Adopt-A-Teen, and many more!
Every December (since 2011), Dan camps out 2-4 times (For 3-5 days at a time) in the blistering winter cold trying to raise as much food, money and awareness as he can for various Food Banks around Alberta. In 2015, Dan made national news when he took his signature campout “on the road” and toured Alberta raising funds, food and awareness for various Food Banks around Alberta who were affected by the economic downturn. This is perhaps Can Man Dan’s most well known event and it has become a staple event for the Edmonton Food Bank as it helps raise several thousand pounds of food and thousands of dollars for people in need.
Every September (since 2013) on the last weekend before (public) school starts, Dan teams with a local hair salon to give away free haircuts, free hair products, a free BBQ lunch, and free mini food bags to people in need. This event has also become a staple event in Edmonton as hundreds of low-income families and people “down on their luck” pack the salon every year to receive some extra assistance before the school year starts. This event also acts as a fundraiser for Edmonton’s Food Bank as they see an big user increase around that time of the year.
Every month Dan and his team travel to the inner city of Edmonton to distribute “Care Packages” to Edmonton’s homeless community. These packages are backpacks or bags filled with food, personal hygiene products, snacks, socks, water and winter accessories.
Throughout the year, Dan and his team hit various neighbourhoods around Edmonton to collect as many non-perishable food items (and other resources) as they can and donate them to a charity of their choice (as voted for by the team). Dan will personally always be on-site to ensure that there are no gimmick teams or scam artists coming under the “Can Man Dan” banner, and every one of his team members will have some sort of Can Man Dan identification.
Dan, under his Can Man Dan moniker, had the pleasure of being a two-time “Celebrity Chef” for the Delux Burger Bar franchise. Delux Burger Bar restaurants across Edmonton added and sold Can Man Dan’s “Christmas Dinner” burger in 2013 and his “Big Bacon Burger” in 2014 which raised hundreds of dollars for the Edmonton Food Bank.
In November 2015, it was announced that Dan was named the honorary chair and official ambassador of Edmonton’s Adopt-A-Teen program. Dan has been a powerful advocate for low-income families and has been a big supporter of many social programs such as “Adopt-A-Teen”, “The Christmas Bureau” and “Santa’s anonymous”. It is Dan’s belief that every child, regardless of their upbringing and financial situation deserves a wrapped present and a hot meal on Christmas Day.
In July 2015, Northlands announced that Dan would be named an “honorary parade marshal” for their annual K-Day’s festival for all of his contributions to the City of Edmonton and in appreciation of his public service work. He was also declared a “Local Hero” by the Northlands group and Edmonton Mayor, Don Iveson. On December 3rd 2015, Edmonton’s Highlevel bridge was lit up in Dan’s honour as a way to thank him for his many contributions to the city and its people.
In September 2017 as a part of their “Best Of Edmonton” showcase, Vue Weekly named Can Man Dan “Edmonton’s Best Activist” after he received a majority of the popular vote from readers and Edmonton’s general public. Dan acknowledged the great honor and said that he dedicated the award to “all of the donors and supporters who have helped him over the years” and that “they’re the real heroes of this story”.