Dan Johnstone, also known as Can Man Dan, shows off food collected during his third of four campouts raising donations and awareness for the Edmonton Food Bank outside the Sobey's grocery store at 16943 127 St. on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. Johnstone's seventh annual camp out raised over $55,000 and 50,000 kilograms of food donations for the Edmonton Food Bank.Claire Theobald / Postmedia


We dress up Christmas charity campaigns with sentimental Yuletide images. We glaze our words with the Christmas spirit. We read or watch Charles Dickens’ enduring A Christmas Carol with warm fuzzy feelings, reflecting on Ebenezer Scrooge’s wondrous Christmas conversion  from miser to philanthropist (somebody who gives away a lot of money).

But it comes down to hard, cold cash.

Adopt-A-Teen is committed to providing 6,000 teens from less-than-privileged Edmonton families with a $50 Walmart Adopt-A-Teen gift card.

That’s $300,000 worth of gift cards.

So if you can find $50 in your Christmas budget, for the only gift a teen will receive this year … or $100, or $20 or $10 that your own 13-year-old wants to donate, please:

Take out your credit card.

Open your home computer.

Call up your browser.

Type adoptateenedmonton.ca in the address bar.

Click on the “donate” button in the middle of the home page.

Ninety-nine percent of your donation will go straight to the teens.

Adopt-A-Teen is a Christmas project with no staff, no office and next-to-no overhead. The Christmas Bureau, bless its great big heart, helps out with administrative support. The Edmonton Sun is Adopt-A-Teen’s #1 supporter. It wouldn’t exist without the newspaper’s whole-hearted commitment to the cause.

As of last Friday, December 14, Adopt-A-Teen was one-third of the way to that $300,000 goal.

Why are people so generous to Adopt-A-Teen, both with volunteer time and donations?

Dan “The Can Man” Johnstone  is best known for living in a collection truck outside of grocery stores during the Christmas season, filling the truck many times over with toys for Santa’s Anonymous and food for the Food Bank.

He’s also an avid supporter of Adopt-A-Teen. When he was a teen, that Walmart gift card was his only Christmas gift.

“My mom was a single parent with two kids … and we were poor,” he says. “That complete strangers gave Christmas gifts to my brother and me – it blew me  away. I love Adopt-A-Teen, I love how it brings the community together to help kids otherwise forgotten.”

Trucker Todd Woitras, with a group of truck-driving pals in the Alberta Large Cars social group, raised a wonderful $14,000 for Adopt-A-Teen through a fundraising challenge.  The main get-together ended with a 27-truck victory lap around the city on the Henday, “plus two Trans Ams in memory of Burt Reynolds,” says Todd.

Adopt-A-Teen was the Alberta Large Cars’ 2018 charity of choice, because several members, including Todd, grew up in less-than-privileged families. “We remember Christmases in our teens when there were no gifts,” he says. “We wouldn’t want that for any teen today. That’s why Adopt-A-Teen is important to us.”

Advocis Edmonton is the local chapter of the Financial Advisors Association of Canada … and Adopt-A-Teen has long been its charity of choice at its annual Christmas Luncheon. The numbers aren’t in yet from its 2018 festive gathering, but, last year, Advocis Edmonton took care of 400 teens!

Why am I – a semi-retired Edmonton Sun columnist – writing this series of charity columns for The Sun and The Edmonton Journal over the Christmas season?

Simple: The thought of teens waking up on Christmas Day without gifts haunts me, as does imagining the helplessness of their poor parent(s) on what should be the most beautiful day of the year.

Thank you for your support.