Dan Johnstone — known to many as Can Man Dan — is well-known for camping out in the cold to collect donations for Edmonton’s Food Bank.
But this year, he is also looking for toys for 630 CHED Santas Anonymous, which gives Christmas gifts to over 25,000 children in need every year.
Johnstone is driven by his own childhood — he says he grew up in a single-parent, low-income household.
“I still remember vividly my mom stressing out, saying, ‘Hey, we can’t afford bills this month, let alone toys,” he said on Global News Morning on Thursday.
“There were Christmases where we went with nothing — literally nothing. I never really forgot those times and I don’t want any kid to have to go through that.”
“Without the support of Edmonton’s Food Bank and Santas Anonymous, we’d have nothing to open up or eat on Christmas Day.”
From Thursday through Sunday, Johnstone will be camping outside for four days in hopes of raising $100,000 worth of brand new toys for Santas Anonymous.
He will be camping at Edmonton’s Massive Toy Blowout warehouse sale at 2403 91 St. SW.
“So it’s a big warehouse, they open it up to the public only once a year, basically. They have sales up to 70 per cent. Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday — this is where the hot deals are.”
Johnstone will be collecting donations 24 hours a day.
“I don’t care if it’s 2 a.m. If you have a toy, come on down and see me!”
Last year, he said, $60,000 worth of donations filled a five-tonne truck.
The toy collection weekend is the second stop on Can Man Dan’s ninth annual citywide food and toy drive. He’s taking part in four “freezing cold winter campouts” around Edmonton in hopes of raising as many food and new toy donations as he can.
“I don’t believe in much, but I do believe that every child deserves a hot meal on their plate and a gift to open up on Christmas Day.”
Johnstone said his first winter campout of the 2019 season brought in 22,000 pounds of food.
Johnstone will have two more campouts for the food bank in south Edmonton later this month: from Dec. 12 to 15 at the Heritage Safeway just off 23 Avenue and 111 Street and from Dec. 21 to 24 at the Southbrook Sobeys just off James Mowatt Trail in the Rutherford area.