Can Man Dan is the nickname of Dan Johnstone and also the name of his initiative that was created in June 2011 with the intent of alleviating poverty, hunger and homelessness in Alberta, Canada. Dan’s initiative started on a small scale in 2011 when he would collect non-perishable food donations around his neighbourhood and donate them to Edmonton’s Food Bank or a local soup kitchen. His efforts were quickly recognized and applauded by many, and he was soon joined by his fellow neighbours, complete strangers, and various businesses (locally-owned as well as corporate franchises) who helped him raise food/money/resources for different charities of his choice. Johnstone’s efforts have been praised by the community, various community leaders, politicians, and local celebrities. Dan’s efforts and events have also been heavily featured on several media outlets throughout the years, both locally and nationally. As of January 2020, Dan has raised millions in resources for people in need while bringing awareness to today’s most relevant issues.
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 with a single mother, in a low-income household, and for years they struggled to make ends meet. Dan and his family relied heavily on many social programs and charities like Edmonton’s Food Bank, just to get by. After Dan graduated high school in 2006 and secured a well-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 projects 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, and ultimately assist in ending 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 Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank, The Wood Buffalo Food Bank, WIN House, Santa’s Anonymous, Adopt-A-Teen, and many more!
The Can Man Dan Foundation was created in August 2019 as a way for Dan to give back to his community on a much larger scale. At its core, the Can Man Dan Foundation is a not-for-profit organization designed to alleviate poverty, reduce community stress, support vulnerable populations, and aid struggling non-profits and charities across Alberta. Please visit the official Can Man Dan Foundation website for more information.
Notable Events, Projects and Accomplishments
Every December (since 2011), Can Man Dan camps out 3-5 times (for 4-7 days at a time) in the blistering winter cold to raise as much food, money and awareness as he can for various food banks and Christmas themed charities 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 for food banks and charities across the province.
In December 2019, Can Man Dan raised 75 000 pounds of food for Edmonton’s Food Bank and $75 000 in new toy donations for Santa’s Anonymous.
Every September (since 2013) on the last weekend before the public school year begins, Dan teams with a local hair salon to give away free haircuts, hair products, a BBQ lunch/dinner, and food hampers to thousands of men, women, and children in need. This event has become Alberta’s single biggest back-to-school event as thousands of low-income families pack the salon every year to receive some extra assistance before the school starts.
Every October Dan and his team supply hundreds of low-income children with brand-new costumes for the Halloween festivities and season. This has become Edmonton’s biggest Halloween themed charitable event.
In July 2015, Northlands announced that Dan would be named an “honorary parade marshal” for their annual K-Days festival for all 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 High Level 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 honour 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.” In November 2018, Can Man Dan was inducted into Avenue Magazine’s annual “Top 40 Under 40” class and honoured with the prestigious “mover, shaker, and do-gooder” award.