Be Strong Rock On – documentary

This documentary is about my son Andrew Banar. He 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.

Posted in Featured 4, other, video Comments Off

Kindness Is Never Far Away

Never underestimate the power of kindness, its’ always around the corner.

World Down syndrome Awareness Day is March 21st, and this is the day that we come together to celebrate people with Down syndrome, their abilities and their accomplishments. We do this by wearing our wildest and funkiest socks by showing that it’s ok to be different.
We were honoured to be part of this day in so many ways, not just because Andrew was born with Down syndrome….that’s a given, but because so many of you joined us around the world and in our communities. Andrew and I were invited to speak and share our journey at many schools this year. Andrew talked about his dreams, goals and achievements. He also shared that just because he was born with Down syndrome that it doesn’t stop him from living a wonderful life.

Talbot Trail Elementary was one of the many amazing schools that we spoke with, and just recently Andrew was honoured to receive a wonderful donation from their March 21st, WDSD celebration. Students held a Toonie Drive and rocked their socks in support.
Thank you for all of your wonderful support, enthusiasm and love. Your kindness will support many of Andrews not for profit programs within our community for people with intellectual disabilities.

~ With Love

Shown here are Kathy Henry’s grade 5 students presenting Andrew wth a donation, Birthday cards and so much love.

Posted in other, Speaking Engagements Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day

Join my son Andrew Banar in celebrating his Annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” birthday wish of doing Random Acts of Kindness for others.

Andrew who was born with Down syndrome celebrates his birthday on April 5th and wants nothing more than for others to do something kind for someone that day……Any day!

Andrew always tells me how important to help others.
And he is always doing things for others so I just knew that we should help make his birthday wish come true.

Please feel free to join in and

Karen Pickle (Andrew’s mom)

Posted in Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day, Down syndrome Tagged , , , | Comments Off

World Down Syndrome Day – Jewelry Line


Andrew has expanded love and continues to make some wonderful pieces for Down syndrome Awareness. He continues this through his partnership with Hazel In Pink Handmade Creations for his ongoing nonprofit fundraising efforts of helping others.

Together with Hazel In PInk, we both offer these beautiful hand stamped/hand crafted pieces for you to purchase on our websites for your convenience. Proceeds from each piece goes towards Andrew’s ongoing non profit fundraising activities for people with Down syndrome and people with intellectual disabilities within our community.

Please feel free to share his lovely creations with anyone you think might be interested in seeing them and please let us know what you think of them.

Group Hug Apparel World Down Syndrome Day Bangle $17 

Group Hug Apparel World Down Syndrome Day Bracelet $17 

Group Hug Apparel World Down Syndrome Day Key Chain $12

Group Hug Apparel World Down Syndrome Day Necklace $17 



Posted in other Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Be Strong Rock On Collaboration

We are so very excited to make this huge announcement!!!!!!

Christine Chittle, owner of Hazel In Pink Handmade Creations is collaborating with Andrew for an amazing fundraising campaign. Her motto is Keeping Hope Local! Now those are beautiful words don’t you think? When we “Keep Hope” anything can happen and it certainly has from her kindness and love.

This friendship that has grown into a collaboration, started with Christine making a beautiful key chain for Andrew. She knows that Andrew has many challenges in life BUT this never seems to stop him from achieving the things that he wants to accomplish. Christine loves Andrew’s “BE STRONG ROCK ON” way of thinking and wanted to give him a little gift that was a true testament of his life. How beautiful is this! And from the kindness of one gift, together Andrew and Christine are creating some beautiful love to share with all of you.

I am extremely proud to introduce our new Be Strong Rock On Key chains, bracelets and necklaces that Christine has created exclusively for Andrew of Group Hug Apparel.

On every piece you will find a “guitar” charm and 2 hand stamped pendants. One with Andrew’s famous saying of “Be Strong Rock On” and the other with his awesome business name “Group Hug Apparel”.

To order you very own Be Strong Rock ON key chains, bracelets and necklace, please check out our website jewelry link OR  Hazel In Pink Handmade Creations website and FACEBOOK page here.

$5 from every key chain and $6 from every bracelet and necklace sold will go toward Andrew’s Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time campaign. Andrew is bursting with excitement and is so very thankful for Christine’s kindness and love.

Thank you  so very much Christine ~ Love Andrew and Karen

Check out how much fun these two had creating each piece.

Andrew learning how to hand punch each pendant….. and not his fingers.

Christine holding everything in place first before Andrew try’s it by himself

First try and he is pro.

Working on the next piece.

Adding the hole to attach the pendant to the piece.

Completely finished……. some steps are secret so we cannot share them all :)

This is what Andrew demonstrates the best. I am so very proud of everything he accomplishes :)

Christine and Andrew with some of their finished creations. Key chains, necklaces and bracelets. All available for you to purchase here. What do you think?


Posted in other Comments Off

World Down syndrome Day – March 21st

I love it when people help me celebrate Down syndrome Awareness. I get invited to speak about my life all the time. I like speaking about my dreams and my goals. I like to share how together with my mom i can achieve my goals. This is important to me and my family. They want to see me live a great life and I want that as well.

This is me talking to students at Talbot Trail School during Canadian Down syndrome Awareness Week (November 1 – 7th) about my life. It was really nice meeting everyone.

Now we are getting ready for World Down syndrome Day. It is on March 21st and is celebrated all around the world. 3-2-1 The 3rd month on the 21st day. I am asking everyone to help celebrate it with me. Can you do that?

This is a chance to spread awareness by celebrating people with Down syndrome, their abilities and accomplishments. If there are students in your school who have Down syndrome like me, celebrate what they can do. I know that sometimes I may do things different than others but that’s OK. My mom see’s everything that I can do as potential and not being limited. I may take longer to figure things out, I may need a lot more modifications, I may need to do things more than once, but if I am not given the opportunity how will you know if I can do things. Sometimes you many not recognize that we can do things like others and sometimes you may not have patience to let us do things because it’s just easier to take care of it yourself. Please let a person with a disability try to do it first, it may take more time but let me try to be an example of what an individual can do if given the opportunity.

Some ways to celebrate:  Have a blue and yellow day. These are colours that represent Down syndrome Awareness. You can order a blue or yellow tee here with one of Andrew’s designs on them. Wear you wildest, brightest, funkiest socks. 1 sock.. or even 3 socks for 3 chromosomes. 3-2-1  Maybe even turn your celebrations into a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to programs and activities that support people with Down syndrome. Feel free to contact my mom Karen for more information about programs that I have started locally for me and my friends. ( or by calling her 519-819-5250 Thank you for celebrating with me.

Posted in World Down Syndrome Day Tagged , | Comments Off

Look Into Your Heart

“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.” ~ M.J.A.
Posted in Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day, Down syndrome, other Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Gigi’s Studio Boutique


We are partnering with some pretty amazing people.

Did you know that our friends at GiGi’s Studio Boutique is the 1st boutique in Fort Wayne to be run by individuals with Down syndrome. AND…. proceeds from the store support their no fee programs.

AND …… GiGi’s Studio Boutique offers a variety of one-of-a-kind, handmade and heartfelt art pieces and home décor created by individuals with Down syndrome.

AND……. They are now carrying my Group Hug Apparel designs.

Thank you GiGi’s Studio Boutique in Fort Wayne Indiana for adding my designs to your store. I love you all .

~ Please feel free to share our posts and like their page ~

GiGi’s Studio Boutique Fort Wayne

Posted in Down syndrome, other, Retail Partnership Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Save The Date For A Fun Event

April 20th will be Andrew’s Annual “ROCK YOUR SOCKS ~ SUPER HERO STYLE” Fundraiser being held once again at Colasantis Tropical Gardens. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about tickets & sponsorship packages.

We are getting so excited!!!!

#andrewbanar #andrewbanarandhisawesometeam #helpingsickchildrenoneshirtatatime #helpingothers #superhero #rockyoursocks

Posted in "Be Strong Rock On" campaign, Charities, Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time, other, Sponsorship Tagged , , | Comments Off

Cowboy Jack has arrived

NEW, NEW, NEW…….. Hi everyone, if you love collecting Andrew’s cool GROUP HUG APPAREL designs, please check out the latest one called “COWBOY JACK”. He’s added it to his his line up with ClassicJack JacksBigHead PatchJack HeadPhoneJack GuitarJack and Winnebagle . This new design is not just for county music lovers but for everyone from little kids all the way to adults. That’s the beauty behind all of Andrew’s designs, they are universal and fit into everyday life no matter what. Andrew really thinks that everyone should have one, two or three ;)

Oh and don’t forget, Andrew continues to support children who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments from an illness from his sales. He loves helping others, creating new designs and sharing his love.

Feel free to check out all of his designs that are available online here: Cowboy Jack

A positive perspective on life is everything so please feel free to FOLLOW/LIKE or SHARE us or check out Andrew’s website to receive more smiles.


Posted in other Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Sharing many wonderful people……who happen to have Down syndrome

Posted in other Comments Off

Alumni Of Distinction Award

Posted in other Comments Off

Not All Hero’s Are The Same

Posted in other Comments Off

Life is what we make of it

Every day I feel blessed to have this amazing young man as my son. He reminds me that anything is possible.

When Andrew was born, the Dr came into the hospital room and said “I believe your son has Down syndrome”. It didn’t take me months, days or even hours, it was in a split second, that I knew my role as his mom had changed. A calmness came over me and I knew everything would be ok. I didn’t cry or even question why this happened, I just held him tight, kissed his beautiful chubby cheeks and did the only thing that I knew I could and would do, and that was to give Andrew the best life experience and journey that he deserved.

Now, remember that I am still his mom and I did cry over many of the medical challenges that accompany Andrew’s Down syndrome BUT I have never, ever cried simply because of the Down syndrome.

I did however, cry when he graduated from grade 8 with all of his many friends he made over the years of grade school. I cried when he received the Kit La Casse Award that his peers nominated him for because of his great strength to overcome his challenges. I cried when he preformed in front his entire high school as part of a talent show. The crowd cheered and applauded his performance.

I also cried when Essex MPP Taras Natyshak nominated and ultimately presented Andrew with the Queen Diamond Jubilee Award: “Andrew is a community leader by any standards, Natyshak said, “someone who makes a differences and inspires the people around him every day to strive to make a better place for individuals who must overcome different challenges in life. I have been so inspired by you, my friend, and so have, I think everybody who has ever met you. And you continue to inspire our region to reach higher, to be better and to love one another.”

And I know that I cried when Diane Sedore-McCoy, nominated Andrew and was chosen as a Canadian Down syndrome Hero in 2014. Diane wrote “Andrew is a hero, not because he has Down syndrome and because of his business, but because he goes above and beyond to make the world better for those who are facing challenges,” Diane is the grandparent to a child with Down syndrome and she continued to say “With role models like Andrew, I am confident that my granddaughter will have a place in this world and be accepted for who she is”.

As a parent we often wonder how to help our children grow, how to help them prepare for the future and get them ready for the stresses of life and all of it’s challenges. But sometimes, we might forget about the journey itself. I realized very early, that one of my biggest responsibilities to my son, was to help him experience life and not just prepare for it.
Andrew comes to me weekly with new ideas. With something he wants to do or some place he wants to go. He amazes me and it’s my job to help him fulfill those plans, ideas and dreams. And college was one of those dreams he had. If Andrew wanted to attend college, it was my responsibility to help him experience college to the closest approximation of his idea as possible.

Andrew wanted to make new friends, he wanted to hang out in the cafeteria and socialize and to be independent. Andrew wanted to take first aid and cooking classes, he wanted to do this just like others, and this was an idea that I could not ignore or worry about because he was born with Down syndrome.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that many of those experiences are not going to be exactly the same as other “unchallenged” teenagers, and that’s OK. We all need to work with our abilities, build upon them and enjoy the moments that we have. And when i remember back to the day Andrew was born, I’m reminded that sometimes things need to be adjusted, altered or rearranged. And if we believe that dreams can be achieved the way Andrew believe’s, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are, life can be very fulfilling and satisfying.

Andrew graduated from St. Clair College Life Skills Program in June 2014. He has gone onto do many wonderful things within our community for himself and for others and he was honoured on April 26th 2017 with St. Clair College Alumni Of Distinction Award. And with this honour, i once again was brought to tears listening to Andrew deliver his speech. He very proudly stood in front of St. Clair College Alumni, faculty members, students, Dr’s, Politicians, business people friends and family. Andrew graciously thanked Ryan Peebles for nominating him, St. Clair College for helping him make is dreams come true & for giving him the opportunity and support that was needed during his college experience. He finished his speech with the following. “Most of all, I want to thank my mom for always helping me. I love you mom. And the tears came rolling down again

We are all very proud of everything you have accomplished Andrew & I am honoured to be your mom.

Be Strong Rock On

Alumni of Distinction – VIDEO

Posted in Awards, other, Speaking Engagements Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Together we raised $10,014.74

Posted in other Comments Off

Save The Date – Yee Haw


On Friday, March 31s t , 2017 we will be holding our 3rd Annual Pasta Dinner Fundraiser for Andrew’s ‘Helping Sick Children One 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 – Western Style’ and we are encouraging everyone in attendance to wear their favourite Group Hug Apparel t-shirt, their craziest socks and best western gear. Andrew will be introducing a new design for sale that evening along with his other wonderful Group Hug Apparel items.

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 a photo booth complete with our popular ‘Andrew Heads’, a bake sale and an expanded children’s area full of western style games and unlimited goofy golf from 5:30-7:30 just to name a few.

We are very excited to be offering a ‘Pay It Forward’ option to our ticket sales this year. For supporters that would like to contribute to the event but cannot make it, they will have the option to have their ticket(s) passed on to the members of the Up About Down Windsor-Essex Down Syndrome Association.

The success of this event is greatly due to the generosity of our community and sponsors. We are so grateful for everyones support for what Andrew loves to do.

If you have any questions, or if you are interested in supporting this event, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to make arrangements to pick up donations from you at your convenience.

Event link on face book: Facebook Event Page
To purchase tickets on line: Tickets

OR by contacting:

Karen Pickle 519-819-5250

Tara Brown 519-996-8187

Back story about Andrew:

Andrew Banar, born with Down syndrome started a little t-shirt business in 2007 called ‘Group Hug Apparel’. This business was created all around the idea of Andrew wanting to save money to attend college. Together with his mom Karen Pickle, they took some of Andrew’s Rock n Roll inspired drawings, put them on t-shirts and this awesome adventure began. And then Andrew wanted to help others. Andrew has been in the hospital many times with health related issues from being born with Down syndrome and understands how difficult it is for families, so after many heartfelt discussions, Andrew donates a portion of his sales to many local children’s charities and gives backpacks filled with Stuffed toys, colouring books, crayons, fun games and other items to help children keep busy during their stay or treatments for an illness. As many times as possible, Andrew will also include a personal note along with one of his “Be Strong Rock On” t-shirt designs to help keep them brave and strong. Andrew fills these bags with his love with hopes of making their stay a little easier. Here is a video of Andrew and his mom for you to view: Documentary

Andrew graduated from St. Clair College in 2014 and continues to work at his business with his mom. To date he has donated over $65,000.00 from his sales and fundraisers and he enjoy life to the fullest.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! We will be kicking up our spurs at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens on Friday, March 31, 2017 from 5pm to 9pm. Complete details will be following shortly on Group Hug Apparel’s Facebook Page, on Instagram and Twitter!

♥ ~ Andrew and Karen (Andrew’ mom)

Thank you to our community and to many of our wonderful sponsors. Without your support our event would not be possible. Thank you to everyone that has donated a raffle prize and to our Big Head, Head Phone Jack & Guitar Jack sponsors: Mr Meat Market, Erie Shore Dentistry, Shan Hasan – Royal LePage, Velocity Truck & Trailer Repair, Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, The Mix 96.7 Radio, Once Upon A Time, Little Glenn’s Moving and Storage, We Put The WIN in Windsor. We cannot wait.

Posted in other Comments Off