Three years ago, he decided that maybe he could do more than provide support as a younger brother. He wanted to make a positive impact by raising awareness for both causes while providing other Down syndrome and diabetes families a banner of hope to rally around.
"I just wanted to create something unconventional, informal, but more comfortable for people like myself who wouldn't normally seek out traditional support groups and charities," says Johnston. "The result was a project that I want to grow, but slowly and meticulously, which probably makes my 'business model' pretty poor in the eyes of experienced cause organizations."
Initially, his plans for the project were quite small. Under the the unifying banner of the Hope, Music, And Charity Project (HMC Project), Johnston planned to compile a collection of original songs from various artists and release a compilation album, tapping the experience he gained as a member of the metal band Ever End.
While the HMC Project hasn't released a compilation album to date, the project has been anything but idle. In the Toronto area, the HMC Project has produced a number of shows featuring other bands and produced original music under the same moniker. At every performance, the HMC Project raises funds by selling logo wear, emblazoned with a design by Mike D’Antonio of Massachusetts pioneers Killswitch Engage.
The HMC Project attracts diverse artists for a common cause.
D’Antonio, who is also an accomplished graphic artist, designs and produces artwork for bands such as Shadows Fall, Unearth, and All That Remains under the name DarkicoN. Most recently, the design company finished commissioned designs for Hurt Reynolds Clothing. It was Johnston's idea to commission D’Antonio; and the fellow artist was more than happy to help.
"Most of my friends are well-versed musicians," says Johnston. "With their help, we're slowly putting together new material for the HMC Project and will hopefully release a few solid EPs for sale by spring 2012. Right now, we are hosting songs from artists [on MySpace] that have committed material, have performed, or will otherwise support the HMC Project. In some cases, they have also invited us to play at their shows."
Among the HMC Project MySpace playlist are two original metal songs — One Shot Left and Icarus — performed by Johnson and various friends. The band, distinct from Ever End, consists of four artists from three different bands. Bigger bands featured on the playlist include punk rockers Cunter (formally Hunter) and indie rockers The Almost.
"Guitarist Jay Vilardi made a great point in that while they do a lot of things for causes in place like Africa and parts of the world where people are less fortunate it's also nice to support causes that are local and hit home in a way," said Johnston.
While Johnston takes a think global, act local approach to his Toronto-based project, he also recognizes that the Internet makes it especially easy to connect with people all over the world. It's one of the reasons he and his team of close friends and volunteers have made a new website for the project a priority.
He hopes it will have more cohesion to push it forward, with streamed concerts, an online store, blog, and information about Down syndrome and diabetes. Currently, the HMC Project relies mostly on Twitter and Facebook, with MySpace serving as a gateway site of sorts.
"There is a very real potential for the HMC Project to also become an outlet for those seeking support and showing support for people with diabetes and Down syndrome," Johnston said. "Growing up, with the exception of my parents, I definitely didn't have anyone to talk to about my sister's diseases or how it impacts all of our lives."
He hopes the site as well as the project's local presence in Toronto might provide an alternative to traditional organizations that he hard a hard time relating to as a kid or felt pressured into making a donation. He would rather put forth the effort into something he loves, raise funds, and donate it to a different organization every year.
"The HMC Project has grown enough that we're almost covering the expenses," said Johnston, who has been funding the project since its inception. "I'm very fortunate that my friends [Dan, Brittany, and Neena] and I can deliver a project that feels big at events and online because the concept it so big."
Johnston is right. Hope can be a miraculous thing. Although his own band, Ever End, is currently on hiatus after losing a drummer, he will be gaining a bride this September. Equally miraculous, his sister will celebrate her 35th birthday this year.
The HMC Project Is A Good Will Pick by Liquid Hip.
At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights good will efforts undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don’t score them. That belongs to you.
We picked the HMC Project in Toronto because Josh Johnston has his heart in the right place. Currently, outside of Toronto, keep up to date with the HMC Project via MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter and watch for the website launch and future EP release. Inside Toronto, attend those HMC events and turn out to buy the merch.
Thanks to Rich Becker, who contributed. And happy birthday, Carrie-Anne Johnston. Your brother rocks.