Be Strong Rock On – documentary

This documentary is about my son Andrew Banar. He is 24 years old and was born with Down Syndrome and has been challenged with many of the associated health issues. With the help of our family Andrew has started his own t-shirt company called Group Hug Apparel and each item has one of Andrew’s cool designs on them. We wanted to share it with the world :)

Karen Pickle (Andrew’s mom)

Katie Hawkins & Rachel Knapp students from the University of Windsor made a documentary about Andrew Banar and Group Hug Apparel. Well done ladies! Thank you.

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If We Spend Time Judging…….

If we spend time judging, who we are…….
It takes time away from Loving, ……who we really are!

Our world shows us these quick glimpses of ways to live. We see theses images everyday. From people we meet to images on TV or social media. We see these up to second reports of what’s going on around us. Mostly snippets of other people’s lives. We see theses images daily and at times, it can consumes who we are.

When I find myself being overloaded with theses images, and find myself judging who I am. I remind myself to see life and the world around me, the way Andrew does.
He looks at everyone equally. With the same compassion going from person to person, showing no judgement, no faults. Andrew shows true honesty and acceptance of everyone he meets. He doesn’t know how to waste time judging who he is by all of these images that surround him. He is consumed with loving life. And I’m consumed with him leading my way.

If we spend time judging who we are, it takes time away from loving who we really are.

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The chosen path

I am so grateful that you helped me chose my path in life many years ago. And I’m blessed to share it with so many wonderful people along the way, especially you.

Since we have started this journey together, I have learnt that many people may pass you by, moving quicker and faster, accomplishing things at a different speed than you do. Some days you may notice and others you may not and it doesn’t seem to bother you at all, and that’s okay with you. And it’s because of this, you have shown me how to see life, in your own way, through your own perspective. And this is so beautiful to see. You’ve shown me how to greet people with smile’s and hello’s and often a hug or two before continuing on our way. And it’s because of you, that my life is like this, and I am happy to experience it with you. You, the young man that takes his time, smelling the flowers, enjoying the scenery and always walking by my side.
You have shown me so many wonderful and beautiful things along our journey and most importantly, you have taught me to…..take……. time… to walk…..a…..little…..slower and….experience….life ….at your pace. And do you know what, I enjoy our walks that much more. I’ve learnt to slow down and not rush along the way, so we can have beautiful and meaningful conversations about life. About what goals we can achieve together and how we can approach life each and every day. Some days we do this more quietly, by taking our time, working together so we can really appreciate all that surrounds us.

My daily path was chosen for me many years ago and I am so grateful to be walking it with you, my son, Andrew.

Love your mom xoxo

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162nd Annual Harrow Fair

Wow! What a way of ending the summer with 4 full days fun at the 162nd Annual Harrow Fair

….check out all of these fantastic pictures that were taken over the weekend and look at how much fun everyone had. Andrew would like to let everyone know that even though he was not feeling well and he missed out on the last two days (when he was there he had a great time hanging out with his friends, going on rides, seeing all the animals and of course being the social butter fly he is), he would like to thank everyone who stopped by to support him by purchasing some of his Group Hug Apparel designs. He would also like to thank all the help that was given to his “Help Fill A Back Pack With Andrew” fundraiser. It’s so wonderful that he received many wonderful donations of new stuffed animals, colouring books, crayons and more. He will put these items into back packs and deliver them to Children who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments for an illness. We will keep you posted on how many he fills. Thank you.

Andrew also thought it was really cool when he heard that some people stopped by our booth to take him on ride’s, milk some cows, grab something to eat and of course and take some great pictures with him.
He really loved seeing all the pictures and i loved seeing all the love that was shown for him. This makes me one proud mom.
Andrew said that he will help lots of children who were sick from my sales…. and again, I’m one proud mom. A big THANK YOU to everyone.

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Andrew Is Always On A Wonderful Journey

Help Fill A Back Pack (Bear In A Bag) With Andrew Banar

Andrew Banar is a young man with Down syndrome and owner of Group Hug Apparel in Kingsville Ontario. Andrew has recently partnered with the Dollar Tree in Leamington ON for a really beautiful idea. He was so excited to meet everyone, talk about his ideas and now share them with all of you.

Andrew and the team at the Dollar Tree are looking for support from our gracious community. They need help to fill Back Packs full of wonderful items that will go to children who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatment for an illness. Andrew has health issues that relate to being born with Down syndrome and knows what it is like to be in the hospital, it’s not fun. So Andrew has made it his goal to help them feel better. He say’s, “its important to help others.” and wants to help cheer them up while they are going through their health issues.
So if you could please consider supporting Andrew and his idea of helping others, he would greatly appreciate you kindness.

Ways You Can Help Out:

During your visit to the Dollar Tree in Leamington from August 26th to September 6th, you could sponsor an item to go into a Back Pack when you check out for only $1.25 plus tax. Andrew thinks that this is pretty cool. You could also stop by to meet Andrew on Saturday August 27th from 10 – 5 and sponsor an item then. You could join in our bbq from 11-3 and get your face painted by Sunshine The Clown. Oh, and you will be entertained by the Stilts Guys (look way up) or purchase one of Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel shirts. Proceeds from this event will be supporting Andrew’s – Help Fill A Back Pack – Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time Campaign. Wow, and that’s just some of Andrew’s great ideas.

Here is another one for you. If you are not in our area but are still one of Andrew’s World Wide supporters, feel free to check out his Bear In A Bag gift Back Packs and consider sponsoring one. Each Back Pack will be filled with items that are hand selected by the man himself “Andrew” along with an awesome NEW stuffed animal or Toy that will go to a child on Andrew’s list of recipients to receive. Oh and Andrew will be honoured to include your name on his gift tag as a gracious sponsor.
Oh my, I cannot believe how excited Andrew is with everything that he has planned. He wanted to let you know that he has been working hard at his business since 2007 and to date he has donated over $50,000.00 towards helping others and he has set a goal to fill 50 Back Packs. Do you think he will? I hope he does with your help.

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Bird House Friendship Garden

Mary Smith from Mississauga Ontario has been following Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel page and recently saw one of our fun posts that we shared with everyone.
It was all about our “Bird House” project that we started about a month ago and we are having so much fun.
This is one of our summer projects that we thought would be a great activity to do all while adding some beauty to our gardens. What do you think about the idea?
It gets our entire family involved.
Andrew picks out the bird houses and paint colours from our local Dollar Store and then we have a blast coming up with ways to paint them. We researched different ideas on line to get the artistic juices going and then we get painting. Dad always helps by hanging them on the fence for us. This is so we don’t drill our fingers to the fence or the bird houses, hmmm finger food for the birds doesn’t sound to appealing.

When Mary saw our post, she loved the idea so much that she mailed Andrew one of her own hand painted bird houses to include with our summer project. Andrew was so excited when he received it along with a beautiful card this past week. And we wanted to let Mary know that Andrew found a perfect spot for his gift. Thank you for your kindness and love, and we now have a beautiful friendship bird house garden started to go along with our “Bird House” wall. We love it!

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Even Super Heros Need A Hand Sometimes

Andrew is contacted often to help provide comfort for little one’s who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments for an illness. He does this by sending packages to them with a new stuffed toys or one of his Group Hug Apparel ~ Be Strong Rock On shirts and sometimes by hand delivering “Bear In A Bag” gifts to them along with a note of encouraging words, kind thoughts and to say hello.

Just recently, we were contacted with a special request from a Bobbie Grubb who has been following Andrew and his business for several years. Bobbie shared the following note with us:

I know that Andrew is all about helping sick children, but i was wondering if he would be able to help two young children whose father is getting ready to start battling cancer.
My cousin’s husband was recently diagnosed with cancer. He is preparing himself for chemo and radiation therapies. They have two children Quinn 6 and Lucian 4. They told their 6 year old son who is having difficulty getting a grasp on the situation. They are very optimistic that they will overcome this obstacle. Please let me know if this is something you can do.

Speaking with Andrew, he wanted to help the same way that he helps other children who are sick or going through treatments, he wanted to give Quinn and Lucian one of his shirts and a new stuffed toy to keep them company. We stopped by for a visit yesterday and met two adorable little boys who see their dad as a their Super Hero and it brought tears to my eyes as we left.

Since our visit, I’ve learnt that their family does not have any health benefits and Nathan’s sick leave pay from work will not last as long as what was expected. With everything that they have in front of them, i want to share a go fund me page that was set up by a family member to help cover expenses as they arise during Nathan’s treatments. Please feel free to offer words of encouragement and prayers, this will help show that the community is thinking about them during this difficult time.
Even Super Heros need a hand sometimes.

✯‿➹♥⁀☆҉ Thank You For Sharing Our Posts ☆҉‿➹♥⁀☆҉

☆*Take a peek at our timeline and if you like what you see. Maybe you will Follow Us *☆
Group Hug Apparel Face Book

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Never forget the journey

I have been seeing so many beautiful pictures of students getting all dressed up and graduating from grade 8. It is always wonderful to see the happy faces and proud moments being created. Seeing them reminded me of many wonderful memories from Andrew’s graduation so many years ago and I became overwhelmed with emotions.
I remembered the day so clearly, how proud Andrew was standing with his entire class, being honoured just like his friends were being honoured for all of their achievements over their grade school years preparing them for the next chapter of their lives.
I recalled how Andrew face lit up when his name was called to receive the Kit La Casse award that his peers nominated him for overcoming so many challenges that he faced over his elementary school years. I recalled all of the wonderful letters that were written about Andrew from students and teachers of why they thought he was so deserving of this award. I cried then and i cried again today knowing that those years are just a fraction of beautiful memories being created with Andrew experiencing life and not just preparing for it. If that’s all we did was prepare for life, and not enjoy the journey I would have forgotten all of these beautiful moments that Andrew and our family has experience thus far and how sad would that be.

Always enjoy your journey because many beautiful memories will exist in doing so.

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Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, Everyday!

Andrews journey in life is leading to many beautiful destinations.

This past week, Andrew was invited to speak to grade 6 students from Saint ursula School in McGregor ON and to pick up 505 decorate socks for Andrew’s “Rock Your Socks” pasta dinner fundraiser being held at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens on April 1st. Read more here:
What an amazing and warm welcome we received from everyone, thank you.

These students certainly did their research about Andrew that’s for sure and I think that an A++ is well deserved.

The students not only new about Andrew and his Group Hug Apparel business of his helping sick children on shirt at a time fundraising, being named a Canadian Down syndrome hero but they also new many things about “Down syndrome” as well. They asked wonderful questions, purchased shirts and tickets to his upcoming pasta fundraiser and even donated to Andrew’s “Bear In A Bag” campaign and of course a Group Hug followed by pictures couldn’t be resisted.

Their entire school celebrated World Down syndrome Day on March 21st (3-21) “Rocking their Socks” along with the rest of the world, which then lead to a discussion on why March 21st was chosen as World Down Syndrome Day.

Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of “all” or “part” of a third copy of chromosome 21. Every body is born with 23 sets of chromosomes which half of them is inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a “full” or “partial” extra copy of chromosome 21. So, 3 copies on the 21 set of chromosomes. Pretty fascinating don’t you think? So did the students.

Before we finished the afternoon, the class had another wonderful surprise for Andrews upcoming 25th birthday on April 5th.
Each awesome student presented Andrew with a hand made birthday card and inside they wrote a “Random Act Of Kindness” they would do for someone on April 5th. If you know Andrew, he asks for Random Acts Of Kindness as a birthday wish. This is his “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” and when the students were researching Andrew, they wanted to help make his Birthday wish come true.
And I only cried several times listening to each of them share how Andrew inspires them to help others for a simple birthday wish. “You guys Rock!

Thank you so much Sandra Lebert, (grade 6 teacher) for being such an amazing teacher & inviting us for such an amazing day!

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Rock Your Socks ~ Fundraiser

On Friday, April 1st, 2016 (no joke!) we will be holding our 2nd Annual Pasta Dinner Fundraiser for Andrew’s ‘Helping Sick Kids One T-Shirt At A Time’ Campaign at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, 1550 Road 3 E, Kingsville, Ontario. This year’s theme will be ‘Rock Your Socks’ and we are inviting everyone in attendance to wear their favourite Group Hug Apparel t-shirt and their craziest socks as we will also be helping Andrew to celebrate his 25th birthday.

Tickets purchased in advance for this year’s event are $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. (Prices at the door will be $25 and $15 respectively.) Ticket price includes a pasta and chicken buffet dinner and one raffle prize ticket. Other events being planned for the evening will be music provided by DJ Dustyn Janzen, entertainment by the “Stilt Guys” a clown and face painting by Just Clowning Around, a bake sale, ‘all-you-can-golf’ for $1 and much more.
If you were interested in sponsoring in any way possible to the event it would be greatly appreciated and will help contribute to the success of the event.

You can contact myself or Tara Brown and we will make arrangements to pick up your donation from you. Tickets are available on line NOW here: Tickets and or Sponsorship


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Coming together with a Simple Plan

So it’s now been over 24 hours and Andrew is still on cloud 9. This magical evening for Andrew……. Okay and me, his mom was seeing his face light up every 2 seconds if not quicker as the night unfolded.

So we started the evening off by eating dinner (of course) at a very cool restaurant ‘Wine-o-logy’ with good friends Tara and her son Sam where we ran into more friends from The Mix 96.7 radio station, Arlene and radio personality Keri, of course there were hugs all around. The Mix radio station played a huge roll to our ‘Simple Plan‘ experience for that evening with the kick off to Simple Plans World Tour “Taking One For The Team” in Windsor Ontario. Read more here. Proceeds from this benefit concert was in support of a wonderful local charity “Transitions To Betterness”.

Andrew then ran into his friend Robi, drummer from Huttch who was opening for Simple Plan that evening, where they also exchanged one of Andrews famous hugs. Andrew noticed the cool shirt Robi was wearing and thought it was pretty fantastic….. hmmmm one of his own Group Hug Apparel designs, how awesome was this.

After dinner, we made our way to the Old Walkerville Theatre where we were taken to the VIP area to meet with our friend David Desrosiers from Simple Plan, who graciously took Andrew to meet the rest of the band members. Andrew was introduced to everyone and was greeted with great kindness from them all.
David set Andrew up appetizers and a beverage and then Andrew gave every member one of his t-shirt designs. Andrew thought that it was pretty cool to talk drums with fellow drummer Chuck Comeau  and then receive a copy of the set list for that nights show.
What made Andrew even more excited was getting it autographed by the guys from the band.
Andrew was already over the moon, until lead singer Pierre Bouvier, asked Andrew if he wanted a group photo. OMG do you think he would say no, of course not.

After Andrew saying good bye and thanking the band for everything, David escorted us back to the VIP area to wait for the show to begin. Another big hug went to David along with our thanks for having us as his guests that evening.

Andrew did not sit very long before he was on his feet, Rockin it out to his favourite songs, performed by his new friends and amazing band “Simple Plan”. Andrew was treated to another awesome experience of being swept back stage by the tour manager to view that band up close. What a spectacular view.

Later I asked Andrew what he enjoyed most about the evening and he said “absolutely everything”. What a fantastic way to look at life everyday and to enjoy every single moment. Thanks for the great reminder Andrew, I am so glade you had fun. Oh, and if you were wondering, so did I.

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World Down syndrome Day ~ 2016

Well it’s that time of year again, for everyone to “Rock Your Socks” on March 21st, World Down syndrome Day! We will be celebrating 11 years! How fantastic is this!
Down Syndrome International encourages friends all over the world to choose their own activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.

Well every year Andrew likes to host a world wide “Rock Your Socks” event.
You may be wondering what needs to be done to join all the fun. It’s very easy to participate, just stick your hand in your sock drawer and see what comes out. That’s right, pull out some bright and colourful socks or maybe some striped ones. Oh, we know that everyone has a basket of mismatched socks, these would really come in handy for this celebration. Or, have you’ve seen the latest craze yet, of all the tall funky colourful socks with different animal prints or cartoon characters on them? Andrew thinks those ones are really awesome! Probably by now you get the idea of what it takes to participate. So what ever you choose, please make a statement!

If your energetic, here are some suggestions of who may want to get involved:

Schools, businesses, friends, family, community groups, girl guides, girl scouts, boy scouts, politicians, police men and police women, nurses & doctors, city folk, town folk, county folk and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Show your colours and get involved with World Down syndrome day. It’s easy. Take pictures wearing your cool socks and share them here or hashtag #RockYourSockWDSD2016 and post on media pages for everyone to see your LOVE, SUPPORT & AWARENESS you are raising. Oh what a great day it will be! Include us in your tweets or instagram @grouphugapparel

When someone asks you , “Why are you wearing those crazy socks”!!!!” Maybe tell them you are wearing them for Andrew who is your friend born with Down syndrome OR that you are wearing them for someone you know with Down syndrome!
OR just wear them to help us raise awareness because it’s world Down syndrome Day on 3.21.16

Please invite your friends to join in the fun here Rock Your Socks On World Down syndrome Day 2016….. now go “Rock Your Socks!” For everyone who is local and in the Windsor/Essex County area, we will be hosting another “Rock Your Socks” 25th birthday celebration fundraiser on April 1st, 2016. Please stay tuned for updates.
~ Karen & Andrew (Group Hug Apparel)

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Looking back in 2015 and Looking forward to 2016

Happy New Year 2016

~ I want to inspire others to never give up ~

You have welcomed my son Andrew into your lives and we cannot thank you enough. My family is humbled by everyone’s support, encouragement and love that you have shown over these past 8 years. Can you  believe that, 8 years? Now that I have actually said it out loud, I am so excited and honoured to say that we are going into our 9th year of Andrew “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time”. Let’s make this his best year yet.

Andrew absolutely loves supporting others from his GHA sales/fundraisers along with being able to help support himself and save for his future. This is important for him and it helps him feel like he is part of the community and contributes in his own way.

This past year has been amazing and with every new accomplishment Andrew has made, it makes me step back in awe and smile with tremendous pride for what he has achieved. I may repeat these words often, but i am one proud momma and I am determined to have Andrew participate in life and not just be on the outside looking in. And I am grateful to have each and everyone of you in our lives to enjoy these experiences with us.

Please feel free to take a look back at some of the things that Andrew did in 2015

~ January ~

Andrew started the year off by attending Transitions To Betterness (T2B) annual Kids Kicking Cancer celebration.
He handed out New Stuffed Toys to every child in this magnificent group. Please read more:  Kids Kicking Cancer

Andrew also met Luka, a young man who is caring, compassionate and selfless. Luka had a birthday wish that i think you would all like to read about here: Luka 

~ February ~

Andrew wrote his first blog post ever. Tell us what you think.

Also in February, we raised awareness for families that have loved ones with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Enjoy our post here: CHD

~ March ~

We celebrated Andrew being named a Canadian Down syndrome Hero in March. Wow what an honour.

…… and this helped to bring us into Andrew selling beautiful ribbons, celebrating World Down syndrome day on March 21st and it’s only March.

~ April ~

This was a busy month preparing for Andrew’s annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” birthday wish of helping others instead of receiving gifts. Now that’s a mouth full.  Many people from around the world came together to celebrate and do random acts of kindness all for Andrew’s birthday wish. I don’t think we slept all month.

~ June ~

A fabulous group of volunteers and our wonderful friends, planned a fantastic event that brought over 200 friends and family together to honour Andrew in our community. The tears that flowed that day. Andrew was so excited to meet so many people. Please read more here: Honouring a Hero

……. and we hope that everyone can attend our next event planned for April 1st, 2016. This will not only celebrate WDSD but Andrew’s 25th Birthday. I think we are going to Rock Your Socks with this one. ~ Yes wear your wildest socks and one of Andrew’s tee’s that night, you won’t be disappointed.

If the previous was not exciting enough, well Andrew also teamed up with local artisan Pam Heal owner of Girly Bits Cosmetics to create a nail polish for his girl friend Julia, and guess what, it’s also called “Julia”

~ July ~

Andrew loves helping others so much that he visits little ones who are in the hospital to show friendship and deliver New Stuffed toys for comfort and love. If Andrew could do this everyday, he would. That’s how much love he has for anyone who is not feeling well. Please read  The visit here.

~ August ~

Mom’s celebrate birthdays right? Well who would have thought that I would be nominated as Augusts Mom on the Month.

~ September ~

Andrew wants children who are sick or receiving treatment to Be Strong & Rock On. He wants to help them feel better and here is one of the many special children that Andrew  has had the honour of meeting this past year. Please meet Mason. I wish we could share them all, so I had Andrew choose one for this post.

~ October ~

We have to mention that throughout the year, Andrew always meets wonderful people. Well Andrew had the opportunity to meet Matthew and become wonderful friends and hopefully long lasting ones forever. Read about meeting Matthew here.

~ December ~

Andrew delivers love for Christmas.

With all of the preparations happening for Christmas, like putting trees up, gift wrapping and baking etc.  Andrew made sure he had time to deliver over 400 New stuffed toys to children who were sick in the hospital just before Christmas as well as make a donation to W.E. Care For Kids for $1000.00

Many of you already know this: All through the year Andrew collects Brand New (unused and tag still on please) stuffed toys and teddy bears. He delivers these gifts not just at Christmas but year round to children who are sick or receiving treatments. So please feel free to contact us anytime if you want to donate a stuffed toy or two, or you can sponsor a “Bear In A Bag” gift on Andrew’s website if you are not in our area.

Thank you for looking back over the year with Andrew. Your love and support is greatly appreciated and we wish you all the best in 2016.

Love: Karen & Andrew

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Christmas Shipping & Hours

So we are never really closed for the holiday’s since you can shop on line, however our shipping elves will be taking a little bit of a break and slowing down to celebrate the season until the New Year. Well they did tell me that they will still be shipping on the days that the postal service is open but unfortunately they cannot guarantee if orders  will arrive before Christmas. Our elves may be out playing in the snow, visiting with friends and family or getting into the eggnog but they will be around to ship your order to you. If anyone is local, and would like to contact us to pick up some of Andrew’s designs, please feel free to give us a shout at 519-819-5250 and speak to Andrew’s mom Karen to make arrangements.

Please enjoy the Holiday Season with friends and family and have a wonderful & safe New Year. ~ Merry Christmas Everyone!

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“Bear In A Bag” gift giving

Andrew has added a little something extra special in the spirit of the holidays this year. It’s called “Bear In A Bag” gift giving. Andrew wanted to add an additional way to provide smiles to children who are sick in the hospital not only on Christmas Day but throughout the entire year. How wonderful is this.

For your $20 sponsorship of the “Bear In A Bag” gift,  a child will receive a brand new stuffed toy packed in one of Andrew’s “Be Strong Rock On” bright coloured cinch bags. All “Bear In A Bag” gifts will be personally delivered by Andrew (and his mom) to the Windsor Regional Hospital and London Health Science Centre for the child recipient with their Donor’s name placed on the tag.  What a wonderful gift that helps support Andrew’s “Helping Sick Children” campaign.
Help Andrew spread the holiday spirit throughout the entire year and be the reason for a child’s happiness right along side Andrew.
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There’s always a rainbow

I’m reminded that life is not always perfect and that the world is full of challenges, full of obstacles, full of struggles and of uncertainties. But what I am also reminded of is that if we are patient and surrounded by constant reminders of good and positive that we can manage these challenges and uncertainties more clearly.

I am grateful for love that surrounds me daily and teaches me to slow down and enjoy the moments. I am grateful for a 3 hour ride home with my my son Andrew, so we could discuss the challenges we over came and then to celebrate our accomplishments afterwards.
I am grateful for the families that we have met along the way and to share stories of struggles followed by triumphs.
I am grateful that Andrew can be a role model to so many but especially to me.
I’m reminded to help him achieve, help him over come and be the advocate a parent needs to be at any age.
I am constantly reminded of who I am and why I am here and I am so very grateful!

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