Be Strong Rock On – documentary

This documentary is about my son Andrew Banar. He is 22 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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Day 12 Down syndrome awareness month

Josie is a 17 year old girl from Sydney who has recently been discovered as a burgeoning Artist! Josie has Down Syndrome but this does not define her…Josie finished Year 10 last year and now studies a vocational skills certificate at TAFE. We found an art course at a local art gallery at the beginning of the year for her to attend to “fill up some hours”. Josie had only ever drawn stick figures prior to attending the gallery. The tutor gave her landscapes to draw and the revelation began. It has been an amazing discovery and I hope you enjoy keeping up with her weekly masterpieces !! …….. Everyone really is a product of their environment – Fortunately, Josie has finally found a fantastic one !


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BBQ Fundraiser for W.E. Care 4 Kids

Today we hosted our very first ever Group Hug Apparel BBQ fundraiser today at Freshco in Kingsville. We could not have done this without the wonderful volunteers that gave up their Saturday to help Andrew cook and sell hot dogs & pop, provide us with some really awesome face painting – Sunshine from Just Clowning Around – Queen Elsa & Olaf – Fairy Tale Princess, Bomber – Windsor Spitfires, Terry – Freshco, our local Beauty Queens – Leamington and all of our wonderful student helpers, friends of W.E. Care 4 Kids, moms and dads and all the little ones that stopped by today. We raised $250 that will benefit a wonderful cause! Our community came together for Andrew’s “Helping Sick Kids Campaign”. Thank you for all your continued support and we LOVED partnering with Freshco and all of you to make this day wonderful! Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Yoga 4 Hope

Loving, Praying and Hoping – Yoga 4 Hope helping local families that are going through treatment for Cancer. Please support the Pajama Angels that help so many in need.

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Mobile Hair Services for Busy Families

Mobile Hair Services for Busy Families, what a great idea that Tina Greco has and she knows that it will benefit your entire family needs.

Tina started offering hair at home services after speaking to parents that have children with special needs while cutting hair at the salon. “Children’s anxiety levels seem to increase when they are in unfamiliar situations”, says Tina. “It would be my pleasure to provide you and your family with professional, full service hair artistry, in your home and all at the same time that is convenient to your family. I am especially honoured to help those who find it difficult to get out to the salon with exceptional needs”. This is coming from a lady who knows what busy means. A wonderful wife and a dedicated mother to 4 beautiful children, pre school to high school.
Tina provides everything that a full salon will offer to their clients all in the comfort of your own home. Haircuts, barbering, colours, hi-lights, styles, perms shampoo’s, sets etc for hair as well as manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, massage and makeup. “I will adapt the services that you find in a salon and perform them at your house where busy families are most comfortable.” Tina is a licensed haristlylist/aesthetician for over 25 years now, and can provide most services in a mobile capacity. Tina takes pride in everything that she has to offer and i know you will as well. To find out more about “Our Place” Mobile Hair Services for Busy Families, contact Tina Greco today 519-978-0379 or send her an e mail

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It’s a “Let’s Be The Reason Someone Smiles Kind Of Day”.

April 5th was Andrew’s birthday and instead of gifts he asked others to pay it forward and do a random act of kindness for someone. What a great birthday it was for everyone that participated. Andrew received so many wonderful messages from people around the world telling of what they did for a complete stranger. It was a “Let’s Be The Reason Someone Smiles kind of day” and so is today. Andrew was given Gift Cards from the wonderful staff at the TD Bank in Belle River to give away & today is the day that Andrew is handing them out to random people.  Maybe you will be one that he see’s smile. Keep posted and see.

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Andrew helping a friend feel better

Hi Andrew & Karen

I wanted to reach out to you and thank you for the wonderful shirt “Be Strong and Rock On” for my son Andrew, and more importantly the extra prayers! He had his PDA heart surgery and it went really well. He is fully back to being himself and recovered, so we are counting our blessings and feeling very grateful! We absolutely love the story about how group hug apparel got started and the connection it has to our son, Andrew! We brought his special shirt to the hospital and it certainly offered some super hero healing powers.

We also have a local Gigi’s Playhouse in our area, and Drew happened to have his shirt on last week when we went. While there another mom noticed it right away and shared how she purchased a few things from group hug apparel for her son! It was so fun to share stories with her and know that your business is touching so many lives and families.
Again, thank you for the prayers, thoughts, encouragement, and the awesome shirt! Drew definitely was strong and is now rocking on!

God bless,

Jenny, Ryan, and Drew Theune

Drew wearing his “Be Strong Rock On” shirt Andrew gave him to keep him strong.

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Be Strong Rock On Maiysn

This is Andrew’s friend Maiysn Spencer enjoying some time away from the hospitals and visiting Colasanti Farms. Andrew & Maiysn have not met yet, but Andrew knows that one day when he is feeling better he will share with him a big Group Hug. Get well Maiysn we are praying for you all the time & Andrew is very happy that you are enjoying your “Be Strong Rock On” shirt that he gave you to keep you a little bit stronger and little bit safer while you are fighting your cancer.

This past March 2014 Maiysn was having stomach pain so his parents took him to the ER in Windsor and they did an ultrasound! They found an enlarged liver and spleen and lymph nodes throughout his body, they also found a mass in his chest. They were sent to London with more testing such as 2 bone marrow aspirates, cat scan, pet scan, and a biopsy of 2 lymph nodes! He was then diagnosed with an Extremely rare form of non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at a stage 4 as it is in his bone marrow. Maiysn has just finished round 4 of chemo as well as a blood transfusion. Please give blood whenever you can.

Please LIKE their face book page – Love and Support for Maiysn Spencer and Family

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Canada Day Celebrations

Celebrating Canada Day is so much fun when you meet so many wonderful people and ice cream is involved. Group Hug Apparel was at the Amherstburg’s Ice Cream Festival set up and selling Andrew’s wonderful designs. Andrew had a special Canada Day shirts that was available and the response was amazing.  Over 10,000 people walked through the gates to enjoy a day of face painting, bouncy castles, splash pad, great food, local vendors, farmers market, race cars and of course ice cream. The celebration would not be complete without the beautiful fire works display along the Detroit River for Canada’s birthday.  The Festival benefits local non-profit organizations & this year Group Hug Apparel and the Windsor/Essex ALS Society received $500 each. Andrew will donate his proceeds to the W.E. Care For Kids Foundation Helping Sick Children. Thank you to everyone that stopped by to celebrate with us.

Kim & Andrew – Amherstburg Ice Cream Festival 2014


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Teddy Bears for sick children

The most amazing thing is happening right now in Windsor/Essex County…. the following wonderful businesses have partnered with Andrew and his Group Hug Apparel to collect NEW Teddy Bears and NEW stuffed animals for the entire month of July. Andrew will give them to sick children in the hospital going thought treatment to help them feel better. Please feel free to drop some off to any of the following locations and help Andrew put smiles on some little faces. Andrew would love your help.

Beach Comber Hot Tubs – 149 Lansdowne Ave Kingsville, ON N9Y 1S4 – 519-733-8826
SHOPeco – 378 Devonshire Drive Windsor, ON N8Y 2L4 – 519-256-0220
Colasanti Farms – 1550 Rd 3 E Ruthven ON N9Y 2E5 – 519-326-3287
L Qs Hair Studio – 4716 Wyandotte St E Windsor ON N8Y 1H5 – 519-945-6464
Canada Post – 28 Division St N, Kingsville ON – N9Y 1C0 – 519-733-2343
McDonalds Restaurant – 329 Main St E, Kingsville ON – N9Y 1A7 – 519-733-9844

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Canada Day T-shirt Specials!!!

We have awesome red tees with a maple leaf on the shoulder for Canada Day. All Mens, Womens, and Kids tees are only $15.00 and the sale lasts the entire month of July.

Click here to see the selection: Canada Day Specials!

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Andrew adding more LOVE for sick kids

Andrew’s “Be Strong Rock On” helping Sick Kids One t-shirt at a time campaign is helping many children staying in the hospital or receiving treatment feel stronger and a little safer during their time away from home.
Andrew has been giving his t-shirt designs to sick children with his saying “Be Strong Rock On” on them, and it has been a wonderful success! He will continue to help sick children because we have received many touching and heart warming stories from people around the world who have someone they LOVE that is ill and could benefit from Andrew’s gift.

Andrew in London Hospital – Heart Surgery

Andrew went through open heart surgery as a baby and he received a teddy bear to help keep him feel safe and to HUG….. well Andrew still has that teddy bear and now he is collecting new stuffed toys that he can give to children along with one of his t-shirts to wear.

We have set up several drop off locations if anyone is interested in donating a new stuffed bear/rabbit/dog etc to Andrew’s “Be Strong Rock On” helping sick kids one t-shirt at a time campaign. This will benefit so many Sick Children and your support is so greatly appreciated if you can help out. We will advertise on our website & face book pages all the locations.

Hugs from a Teddy Bear

If you have any questions or know of a child that would benefit from Andrew’s LOVE, PLEASE  e mail me – Karen Pickle (Andrews mom)

If you are interested in donating a bunch of new stuffed toys and would like to have us pick them up if you are local feel free to get in touch with me and we will make arrangements to pick them up.

If you live farther away and would like to purchase one of Andrew’s t-shirts so he can continue to help sick children from his sales, feel free to check out his on line store at

Here is a list of locations to drop off new stuffed animals or toys at and we would love to have your location as a drop off: Or again if you are Windsor/Essex area with lots to pick up we can stop by and do that for you :) and get a group picture with Andrew :)

SHOP Eco – 378 Devonshire Road Windsor, ON N8Y 2K4
Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens – 1550 Road East Kingsville ON. N0P 2G0
Beach Comber Hot Tubs Kinsville – 149 Lansdowne Ave, Kingsville ON. N9Y 1S4


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Andrew helping others 1 t-shirt at a time

Andrew presented a cheque for $1200.00 to the Children’s Health Foundation at the London Sick Kids Hospital on May 9th , 2014 from his t-shirt sales. Our family is very grateful for the care & support that has been given to Andrew over the years because of his on-going medical challenges. Andrew will continue to help sick children from his sales and hopefully provide some comfort to families during trying or difficult times.
Thank you to everyone that stopped by our event at the LHSC. With your generosity, Andrew can continue to help others.
Sending a Group Hug to everyone!

Andrew donating to the London Hospital

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Letter to a grade one class in London Ontario

I want to share with everyone a letter that was written by Dr. Daniele Wiseman from Victoria Hospital in London Ontario. Andrew had the opportunity to meet her several years ago and then again this past week while he was selling his shirts at Hospital. What Daniele has done to encourage students in her daughters grade 1 class and promote Andrew is so beautiful! Thank you Daniele for your continued support and LOVE for who Andrew is and what he LOVES to do for others. Please take a moment to read the following letter.

Andrew & Dr. Daniele Wiseman

Dear Mrs. Anderson’s Grade One Class,

I am Lauren Maxwell’s mother. I work at Victoria Hospital. A few years ago I met a young man there named Andrew. He has Down Syndrome. This means that he has had to face more challenges than most people with his health and with his ability to learn. Despite this, he maintains a positive attitude and he never lets his issues get him down. He designed a t-shirt with the logo “Be strong, Rock On!”. This tells us that no matter what bad things happen, and every one of us will face hard times and challenges, we must hold our heads high and never give up.
Every time I watch you in your French play, at the concerts and school events, I am inspired by each and every one of you. You all have so much potential and talent. Lauren and I are so honored to experience a small part of your childhood with you. You have the world at your feet and if you work hard and believe in yourself, there is nothing that you can’t accomplish. The sky is the limit.
I want to gift each of you with a Be Strong, Rock on t-shirt so you will remember how brave you are, how smart you are and how strong you are when the going gets tough. The money from the t-shirt sales goes directly to help sick children have an easier time while in hospital. So when you wear your shirt you will not only be showing your bravery, but will also be helping little kids.
I also want you to realize that you will have many fabulous teachers at Matthew’s Hall and in your high school and University years. Having said that, it is my sincere belief that Mrs. Anderson IS the best teacher you will ever have so don’t forget to tell her so! Enjoy the rest of Grade One!
Dr. Daniele Wiseman
(Lauren’s mama)

Beautiful! Thank you Daniel and thank you students from Matthew’s Hall.
“Be Strong Rock On” all through life!


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Andrew helping others – One t-shirt at a time.

Andrew paid a visit to Aubri’s Aunt Sarah today and he presented her with a donation for $700.00 from his Helping Others – One t-shirt at a time campaign. Andrew asked Sarah how Aubri was feeling and if she would pass along something extra special to her from him when she went to visit her this week. Sarah said absolutely she would! Then Andrew gave Sarah a big HUG and said “please give her that HUG from me”.

Please continue to pray for Aubri and her family. Please visit her face book page or website for continued updates and if you want to make a donation to help her click the link on her website. Thank you everyone for all of your LOVE and continued support. We LOVE you all!

Andrew donating to Aubri’s Aunt Sarah

Andrew & Sarah – cheque donation for Aubri

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