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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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 karen@grouphugapparel.com or Tara Brown tara_brown_@hotmail.com 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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Black Friday Deals Are Here ~ 25% off

~ 25% off your entire order (shipping not included) ~ Here is your code to use as many times as you want before the sale ends: BLACKFRIDAYSALE (caps not necessary)

Sale ends Midnight November 30th 2015.

Black Friday Week Sale has begun! Skip the lines (okay we don’t have lines on line) and shop Black Friday deals from anywhere, even your couch (in your tiger stripped pj’s drinking hot chocolate wink wink). We have lots of items for you to choose from and these deals will go quickly. So check out Andrew’s cool designs before the sale is over. Ho Ho Hold on and there is more.
With every purchase you are helping Andrew with his “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” campaign. Andrew has donated over $35,000.00 to local children’s charities and families who have children either sick in the hospital or going through treatments for an illness. He gives them one of his cool Be Strong Rock On designs and a stuffed Teddy bear to help them smile.

Here is a quick link for your convenience GROUP HUG APPAREL BLACK FRIDAY SALE Thank you for your support and for helping Andrew share some love with others.
Now get shopping before the sale is over.

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Bowling with friends

I went bowling with all my friends. We had so much fun bowling and we had pizza and pop.

My new friend Matthew came down from London to bowl. It was nice seeing him. He bowled on my team.

Here is a picture of my friends.

Here is my mom holding Jason. He was to small to bowl.

This is my friend Tiffany. She is pretty cool. I take cooking classes with her.

It was a fun day and I cannot wait to do it again.

I hope you like my blog.

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Andrew’s Blog Post #5

Down syndrome Awareness

My mom and I were really busy this past month. It was Down syndrome awareness month.
All month we handed out ribbons at events. I put one on every day and so did my family.
My mom helped me host a bbq at Zehrs in Kingsville. We raised money for our Windsor/Essex Up About Down
Association. This will help with cooking classes for me and my friends. They are so much fun. Thank you to PJ at Zehrs and Madonna at Zehrs and all the employees. You helped make our day fun.
These are some of my friends that helped or stopped by to buy a hot dog. It was a really fun day!
We spoke at St. Clair College in Chatham. They had a bbq for us and we saw many new people.
I really like talking to the students. It’s like being a teacher in front of everyone.
I gave everyone Down syndrome ribbons and stickers. Thank you it was so much fun.

We went to the University of Windsor. We spoke to 3rd year students in the Developmental Disabilities course.This was so much fun. There is 100000 students there.  I was not afraid and it was really cool. Everyone liked my Down syndrome ribbons i gave them.The students brought in canned food for me to give to the Homeless shelter. Thank you for helping me with this.

The Public Relations club from St. Clair College asked me to their Halloween Photo booth day.
I gave tattoos and ribbons to everyone.
We met lots of great people. Thank you Cierra and Nick for having us with you. The club took donations for the Windsor/Essex Up About Down Association for cooking classes. I like taking the classes. They are very kind to help us. Thank you so much.
My mom and I went to Waterloo. This was a long drive. I got to have fun with all my new friends at their Buddy Walk.
I gave everyone tattoos and ribbons.
We danced and sang songs. I liked doing things like this.
Thank you for inviting us.
I hope you like my post.
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Andrew’s Blog Post #4

My mom and I went to London on Saturday to meet a new friend.
His name is Matthew. It was a really fun day.
We went bowling and had some lunch.
Matthew likes music, movies, games and eating at restaurants. His favourite thing to watch is Glee. I love Glee.
We love doing the same things.
He is turning 25 years old in November. I am turning 25 in April.
I cannot wait to see him again in December.

Here is a picture of Matthew and me.

This is a picture of Matthew, me and Christine. She is really cool.
Christine works with Matthew and does fun things with him. I was happy to meet her.

This is a picture of Cayla, me, Christine and Matthew hanging out at the bowling alley. Cayla was fun to hang out with. She is from Africa and i like how she talks. I showed her how to bowl. I think she already knew how to bowl. But i helped her anyway.

My mom had a fun day too. She had lunch with some ladies. They are her new friends.
My mom was picked to be Mom of the month for August. This is her birthday month.
All of these ladies are moms of the month. I am very proud of her. She was chosen because of how she juggles life. I think it’s called it Work, Life, Balance.
If i get stuck, my mom helps me and works with me. My mom is very patient with me and never gives up. My mom takes time for herself even if i keep her busy.
I love her for it.

This is a picture of Michelle, my mom, Mama Deb (She picked my mom for mom of the month) Nina and Kelly.

This is a picture of Kathy, Mama Deb and my mom. Kathy is Matthews mom. My mom was so happy to meet her.

This is me and Mama Deb. I was telling her all about my life and how I love it!

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you liked it. Hugs to you all.

Andrew Banar

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October Is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

“October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness.
During the month, we celebrate people with Down syndrome, their abilities and accomplishments.” Please join Andrew Banar, owner of Group Hug Apparel in celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month by wearing a blue & yellow lapel ribbon that will be available at Zehrs in Kingsville for the entire month of October or by contacting Andrew’s mom Karen Pickle (karen@grouphugapparel.com) in the Windsor/Essex County area.

Also as part of Down syndrome Awareness Month, Saturday Oct 10th from 10-3 Andrew & his Group Hug Apparel will be hosting a BBQ at Zehrs ~ Hot dogs, sausage & hamburgs & drinks.
Proceeds from the ribbon donations and the BBQ will support programs for people with Down syndrome within our community like these awesome cooking classes Andrew takes with his friends.

If your business would like to participate by hosting an event to help raise awareness and support programs for people with Down syndrome please feel free to contact us anytime. We would be happy to talk further and help make your event a success.

Thank you to Zehrs in Kingsville, Madonna and all the wonderful volunteers for helping to make our event a success.

~ Thank you,
Andrew Banar ~ Group Hug Apparel
www.grouphugapparel.com

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I Remember The First Day Of School

Oh how i miss the first day of school & seeing Andrew so excited about experiencing this part of his life……. well maybe not so much Andrew and to tell you the truth, maybe it was just me, a mom thing seeing your child experience the first of everything, celebrate the first part of his life that he/we will only experience once.
I still remember the first new back pack, and his yellow coat with his first new lunch box and thermos, oh and the first day of meeting the teacher & bus driver along with new friends and new relationships ……… all for the very first time and how it brings me back, back to a time of emotions and feelings that i got to experience for the first time with Andrew. I know i said this already but Oh how i miss the first day of school, especially after seeing so many pictures being posted and shared of little ones some looking happy and some not to sure of what they will encounter on their first day of school. Even thought Andrew is 24 now and finished school, he asked me if he could go back and do it all again.
You see, Andrew & I have all sorts of neat conversations and when he asked me this I was confused and i knew that we needed to talked further about his idea.
I started off by explaining that you go through each grade one at a time and said that when each grade is done, you move onto the next grade then the next year. I mentioned that as we get older and we accomplish these areas of our life, we cannot start the process over again. We finish, graduate and move onto a different part of our life’s journey. Andrew said that he wanted to go back to school and that he could do this because they would let him, he could go back to grade school and not take the classes but be part of the class and help to teach the students, be an Educational Assistant and help others and with that, we are always making plans and working with his abilities so he can achieve the closest approximation of his idea as he can without starting off automatically at NO. We will be looking into Andrew helping out by reading to students and letting him experience being an Educational Assistant in his own way and he was excited about trying this for another new first in his life :)
We hope everyone had a fantastic first day of school.

To learn more about Andrew, feel free to check out his website and face book page’s
~ Group Hug Apparel ~

 

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Inspiring Business Owners

I was looking through previous e mails and i came across one that was written by Maureen Wallace of SheKnows media about Inspiring Business Owners who not only have a business but they also have Down syndrome. Reading this again made me remember that what Andrew is doing with his life is so important to him and many others.

Maureen shares in her article from September 2013 the following information.

“These are not your parents’ perceptions of disability!

Most parents say dreams for their children’s future center on one goal — happiness. For parents of children with special needs, we often add “independence.”

As mom to a 3-year-old with Down syndrome, I think about Charlie’s future in some way every day. It’s a very different approach to parenthood because while no child’s happy, successful and productive future is guaranteed, options are much more plentiful for a typically-developing child, such as my daughter.

I worry how we’ll pay for college for both of them (while worrying if Charlie will be able to attend college). I worry whether my daughter will choose sports over drugs and ambitious friends over slackers (while worrying whether Charlie will be able to cross the street safely by himself one day).

Then I learn of families who pushed worries to the side and focused on their child with Down syndrome — his likes, her abilities, his talents or her hobbies. I’ve learned that when parents allow children to steer their own destinies, good things can happen.”

Maureen writes about 3 young Inspiring Business Owners Tim Harris owner of Tim’s Place , Christian Royal owner of Christian Royal Pottery and our own Andrew Banar owner of Group Hug Apparel, all who have Down syndrome. Feel free to read more here and since this was written almost 2 years ago, please go to their sites and see what has happened since her article.

Thank you Maureen for reminding me that Tim, Christian & Andrew are taking the fear out of the word “future” for so many families.

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