Hundreds of families lined up in north Edmonton on Sunday to receive fresh school supplies, food and haircuts — all for free — thanks to an initiative aimed at helping those in need ahead of the new school year.
The annual event, known as “We’re Here For Ya Day,” started six years ago after Dan Johnstone saw a need.
“Looking back, I wish we had services like this,” said Johnstone, who also goes by “Can Man Dan” and refers to himself as an anti-poverty activist. “I know how expensive it is — I know how time-consuming and stressful it is — so I said why not throw an event every year to help single parents and families in need?”
Christina Touzeau attended with four of her six kids, hoping to leave with new school supplies.
“It actually helps our family because we’ve already spent our limit on clothes, school supplies [and] food,” Touzeau said. “If you put all the cost in total, it’s a lot of money.”
Single mother Francine Mosonyi, who has two children, lined up with her son. She said the event makes a big difference for parents like her.
“It just helps to take a little bit of the load off, a bit of the stress off,” Mosonyi said. “I need the haircut, my son needs the haircut. Sometimes you just can’t really afford a haircut.”
Attendance has continued to grow, according to Johnstone, with the turnout estimated at 2,100 people this year.
The haircuts, food and gear are all donated by local businesses and community members.
“We’re just putting smiles on people’s faces and sending them off for the school year, right?” Johnstone said. “It’s all about love and hope and smiles and keeping the cycle going, which is important.”