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.

Posted in Featured 4, other, video Comments Off

“It Takes A Village to Raise a Child”

The origin of the popular saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is a mystery but having had the opportunity to spend time with some young children this past week from The Regional Children’s Centre in Windsor, i also believe that “It takes love, time and patience to raise a child”. Andrew & I met some really awesome young children and spent time building Gingerbread Houses and presenting them with over 65 New Stuffed Teddy Bears for Christmas. What a wonderful time we had talking about ideas for the holidays, drinking hot chocolate & of course building gingerbread villages with each of them. The Regional Children’s Centre is an accredited children’s mental health centre serving children and adolescents who are dealing with social, emotional, developmental, and/or behavioural issues, and their families. The Centre offers a variety of crisis stabilization, diagnostic, assessment, treatment, and consultative services designed to promote healthy functioning of children, youth, and their families within the home, school, and community. The Centre offers on-site out-patient and residential services and community based programs. “It takes a village to raise a child” as well as “love, patience and time”. We cannot wait to stop by and visit again soon.

Posted in other Comments Off

Sharing Is Caring

Andrew helped provide a day of fun for adults with intellectual disabilities at Community Living Essex County on December 15th. Proceeds from Andrew’s “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time”, campaign helped provide a fun filled day of building gingerbread houses, socializing with his friends and eating pizza. It was so nice to spend time with everyone and to see how beautiful their houses turned out. This day turned out to be even more magical when Andrew donated $200 to Community Livings #givingtuesday campaign and that turned into $400 real quickly because from Dec 1 – 24th Home Town Family Pharmacy is helping to support #inclusion by matching 100% of the donations between those dates (up to $5000). How awesome is that! You can help as well by donating online at or text INSPIRE to 20222 to donate now. #tistheseasontobejolly #sharingiscaring #helpingsickkids #bestrongrockon

Posted in other Comments Off

Partnering With Wendy’s Restaurant – How Cool

We are so honoured to partner with Wendy’s Restaurant 7605 Tecumseh Road East, this Sunday Dec 21st from 12-2 pm. Andrew will be selling his Group Hug Apparel and supporting a wonderful charity WETRA (windsor essex therapeutic riding association) Stop by for some lunch, meet Andrew, takes some pictures and get some great t-shirts for Christmas. We cannot wait to see you there!

Posted in other Comments Off

“Our Time” Program and Gingerbread Houses

On Dec 13th Andrew had a great time helping out at the “Our Time” program through Family Respite Services. This program offers opportunity to Children with special needs be able to engage in activities just like their friends in a “day camp” style program on Saturday afternoons. Watching all of these children create and decorate Gingerbread Houses was so heartwarming. It reminded me of simple pleasures that everyone should experience. Chelsea, one of the supervisors mentioned that one particular boy was really focused on creating his house and completing the activity at hand. This was a side of him that they have not seen before and it was so nice to watch.
Andrew wanted to help others have the opportunity to participate in building Gingerbread Houses for an afternoon and seeing so many smiles while we were there was all we needed. Andrew loved being able to give big stuffed animals from his “Helping Sick Kids” Teddy Bear campaign to each of them and then finishing the afternoon enjoying a swim with all of his new friends. Thank you for putting a smile on my face. Have a very Merry Christmas each and everyone of you.

Posted in other Comments Off

Group Hug Apparel – Christmas Open House

Group Hug Apparel Christmas Open House

Please join us on the following dates & times: Tuesday December 16th from 10am -5pm Thursday Dec 18th from 10 am-5pm Friday Dec 19th from 10 am – 2 pm Saturday Dec 20th from 10am-5pm

Group Hug Apparel 149 Lansdowne Ave, Kingsville ON N9Y 1S4 (same building as Beachcomber Hot Tubs & The Salon)

With every purchase you will be entered into our Christmas Raffle for a chance to win a Group Hug Apparel tote bag filled with all kinds of goodies. If you want us to put your order together ahead of time, feel free to call or e mail us: or 519-819-5250

Posted in other Comments Off

Helping Katelyn to “Be Strong Rock On”

This is Katelyn, the beautiful daughter of Charles and Shannon Campbell. Katelyn was diagnosed with retinoblastoma back in April of this year at three months of age. Sickkids hospital in Toronto is the only facility in Ontario, and one of only 3 in the country that deal with this type of cancer. “It’s been one heck of a roller coaster ride since then,” said Charles. They have been very lucky to have met some special people along the way including Leslie Low and her three boys who are dealing with the same kind of cancer. (I recently shared a post about the Low triplets). Katelyn is also unique in that she has a genetic condition called 13q deletion which was the cause of her cancer.

The campbell’s were forwarded our blog post about the Low triplets from a friend. They thought that what Andrew does & his designs were really cool so they placed an order right away. When i read the note they shared about their daughter Katelyn in the “Instructions from buyer area”, we needed to get in touch with them to see if we could meet them. Andrew wanted to give Katelyn her own little shirt and Teddy Bear from his Be Strong Rock On Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time Campaign. Andrew & I had the opportunity to meet Charles, Shannon & Katelyn this past week and Andrew wants to continue to help more families like the Campbell family in the future.

Posted in other Comments Off

Three Times the Beauty and Three Time the Love

When Andrew set out to help others from his “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” campaign, i never imagined that his love would touch so many kiddies and their families outside of our own community. How beautiful is this. This little story brought tears to my eyes because Andrew wanted to share some of his love and little Teddy Bears with not just one sick little boy but three sick little boys who are all brothers. They are triplets.

When Andrew first heard about these little boys he came to me and said that they needed to have some of his Teddy Bears and little shirts to keep them safe while they were in the hospital. So we did our research and sent them 3 bears for them to snuggle with ( hand picked by Andrew ) and 3 little baby shirts with Andrew’s Head Phone Jack design on them to keep them brave. The Low triplets, all born with a rare form of eye cancer called Retinoblastoma (Heritable Bilateral Retinoblastoma). Thomas, Mason and Luke Low just celebrated their First birthday but have been travelling from Alberta to Toronto more times than many. These little men are fighters, and are continuously be poked, prodded and operated on by so many Doctors and specialist all because of this terrible disease. Thomas, Mason and Luke cannot do it without all these wonderful people that they have in their lives. Please keep them all in your prayers and if you read through the Blog about this courageous family, you will understand why Andrew wanted to send his love.

Following is a letter from the Low family to us: Andrew & Karen, My name is Richard Low. I am the father of Thomas, Mason and Luke Low, the triplets with eye cancer. My wife and I just wanted to give our heartfelt thank you for the shirts and teddy bears you sent our little boys. It was really thoughtful of you and we really appreciate it. The boys love playing (and chewing) with their bears. Andrew, we can tell you are one strong kid. We wish you the best of luck in everything. I’ve attached a picture with the boys in their shirts. Richard Low

Posted in "Be Strong Rock On" campaign, other Comments Off

Our own Christmas radio show “Andrew’s Christmas List”

Can you believe this, Andrew & I will be hosting our very first Christmas show on the radio called “Andrew’s Christmas List”. How totally awesome is this!

Check out the live radio stream on or listen to us from your home, in the car or wherever you can just tune in
Dec 13th from 12-1 95.1/100.7 lite FM

Un- flipping – believable! ! And the waterworks happened again.

#howcoolisthis #andrewschristmaslist #litefm951 #seetheabilities #tistheseasontobejolly #livefromwindsorontario #followmeandwatchwhaticando #cdss

Posted in other Comments Off

Gingerbread House Fundraiser

Oh the fun that we had at our First Annual Gingerbread House Fundraiser held  Dec 6th, 2014 at Colasanti Tropical Gardens. You got it right when i said annual because it was a HUGE success! Not only did kiddies decorate gingerbread houses but gingerbread trains and gingerbread villages as well. Over $600 was raised for Andrew’s “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” campaign. Everyone had a wonderful time decorating and sometimes even eating parts of their gingerbread creations. One little boy was so excited when he his momma said “all done” he then proudly knocked it down just like he does with his toy building blocks. “All Done” momma. That was the only one that went home in the flat box it came in lol. What  a great day! A big HUGE THANK YOU to Zehrs and to Freshco in Kingsville for all of your generosity. Without your help this would not have been possible. Thank you to all of our friends, Colasanti’s, student volunteers, Kerry Trepanier photography, Rosie the Clown (face painting) to all of the wonderful businesses that donated raffle prizes and a special thank you to everyone that came with their kiddies to spend the afternoon enjoying a little bit of Christmas cheer. We hope you can join us next year for our 2 day event.  Please visit Kerry Trepanier Photography for more wonderful pictures.

Posted in other Comments Off

The things that you can do in one day! oh my!

Well we started our day off  full blast!  And i mean here we go, don’t slow us down or get in our way because there was just no stopping what we set out to do! Of course coffee and a lemonade to get us going. Thank you Andrew for helping your momma out with some more energy that was needed.

After our Timmies we headed to St. Rose Catholic Elementary school in Windsor to join the Junior and Senior Kindergarten students and their wonderful teachers for a special Christmas project surprise called Andrew’s LOVE. For the entire month of November, each student brought in a New Stuffed Toy for Andrew’s “Helping Sick Kids Campaign”. OMG when we walked into their class room we were just overwhelmed with all of the LOVE that was collected and shown for us! These students and teachers have shown what a small act of kindness can do for someone else. Congratulations to each and every one of you for being a shining example to others….. and of course this will be the first cry for  today.

After our much needed hugs and saying good bye to all of these wonderful little students, we headed outside to find CBC television wanting to interview us with regards to Andrew’s Teddy Bear – Helping Sick Kids Campaign. If Andrew was not over the moon already well he certainly was when he shared his story with the reporter from CBC. Crying moment number two for today.

OK, one last look at all of these wonderful faces. Melt my heart! Then it was off to the WE Care For Kids wrap up luncheon event. We attended a wonderful lunch (of course Andrew had no complaints about) and then he presented $1500 to the foundation that will help support the W.E. Care For Kids Home in Windsor. To date Andrew has donated over $5000 to this program from his Helping Sick Kids Campaign. Moment number three for the tear factor. I am so proud of Andrew and what he does to help others.

And moment number four was when this lovely young lady Alex, one of this years spokes children for W.E. Care for Kids thank the foundation for giving her the opportunity to promote such a wonderful charity. Alex mentioned that she was so inspired by one young man that helps others that she will continue to do her best to help others too. This caught my breath and tears began to flow with pride. Hearing that Andrew is a role model to young people is so beautiful!

Oh my goodness and we are only half way through our day! Next we went over to Black Burn Radio – Lite FM 95.1 to meet with Gary Evans the program director for a photo opportunity (they are so graciously collecting NEW stuffed toys for Andrew’s Helping Sick Kids Campaign) and to discuss with them, are you ready for this….. Andrew’s own one hour radio show that will be aired Dec 13th from 12-1 on 95.1 Lite FM Un- flipping – believable! Andrew & I will be hosting our own Christmas show called Andrew’s Christmas List. How totally awesome is this! And the waterworks happened again.

Well, we hope you enjoyed what we accomplished today because we had a blast doing it! Oh and remember there is always tomorrow to top this list. Oh ya, its our Gingerbread House Fundraiser at Colasanti’s Dec 6th 12 – 4 stop by and join in the fun.

Posted in other Comments Off

Andrew teaches me every day!

One of the many things that i enjoy in my life is how Andrew teaches me something everyday. If you have had the opportunity to hear Andrew & I speak during one of our presentations, you may recall that i mention the following sentence, “If Andrew works so hard, and is so willing to try new things, than i need to work hard as well.”
Andrew teaches me to be a hard worker even in the simplest ways. He teaches me to look at life through his eyes and be willing move outside of my comfort zone. This is how Andrew lives his life every single day. Trying his best to accomplish even the simplest tasks that i may take for granted like making chicken pot pies during a cooking class with all of his wonderful friends that he has met over the years. Concentrating and working together. This reminds me to be simple and concentrate on the beauty before me. This is what i am reminded of every single day from my son. I LOVE you Andrew. Thank you for being my teacher and my reminder how life should be.

Posted in other Comments Off

Gingerbread House Making Fundraiser

Our 1st annual Gingerbread house decorating event being held at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens on Saturday Dec 6th from 12 – 4 pm with 100 % of the proceeds from the registration going to Andrew’s “Helping Sick Kids” campaign.

Please Note: Pre registration is recommended as we have limited spots available. Go to starting Monday November 24th to register ahead of time.

For more information you can always contact me Karen Pickle (Andrew’s mom) via e mail – ( but please pre register at

Face Painting will be available by Just Clowning Around

Kerry Trepanier will be on site taking wonderful pictures of our event that day. Bring your smiles

$18.00 per child
Included in the price will be:

1- Gingerbread house kit to decorate – donated by Zehrs Kingsville, Freshco Kingsville, Walmart Leamington – Thank you so much for your support
1- free raffle ticket for some awesome raffle prizes
1- free mini golf game donated by Colsanti’s – donated by Colasanti Farms II

Some of the Raffle Prizes to date: Thank you so much for your support.

Lia Sophia Jewellery Sparkle by Suzanne- donated by Suzanne Bonneau Brogan
Colasanti family package – donated by Colasanti Farms
Group Hug Apparel t-shirt – donated by Group Hug Apparel
Spitfire Tickets – donated by Leamington Chrysler & Windsor Spitfires
$500 off a Beach Comber Hot Tub - Beachcomber Hot Tubs Kingsville
Tupperware package – donated by Chrissie Sharp Faubert
1 Hour Massage by Linda Prytulak-Fowler
Queen B Make Over by Sam George - Tan Lines and The Salon
Talking Elmo Doll – donated by Group Hug Apparel

Posted in other Comments Off

New Teddy Bear Drop Off Locations

There continues to be some pretty awesome people around Windsor/Essex County again pulling through for Andrew’s  & his NEW Teddy Bears collecting for his “Helping Sick Kids Campaign”. We continue to have people requesting our bears for a loved one that is sick.
Look for the RED box that Andrew has decorated along with his picture.
Please drop off NEW Teddy Bears to any of the following locations so Andrew can continue to help sick kids in the hospital or going through treatments feel better. LOVE is all around!

1. Colasanti Farms Restaurant doors – 1550 Rd 3 East Ruthven
2. Beachcomber Hot Tubs – 149 Lansdowne Ave Kingsville
3. Erie Shore Family Dentistry – 68 Main St E, Kingsville
4. Mix 96.7 Leamington – 100 Talbot St. E Leamington, ON
5. Country 95.9 – 2090 Wyandotte St. E. Windsor, ON

Posted in other Comments Off

Unselfie Challenge

We took the Unselfie Challenge and donated to Family Respite Services. We know how important it is to help children with intellectual or special needs have opportunities to go to summer camp and have a great time doing so. Who is next?
We challenge all of our friends who own a Group Hug Apparel shirt to take this challenge #givingtuesday

Unselfie challenge what?
Anything but your beautiful face and puckered up lips! #givingtuesday

Donate here:
Show your love… Who is next? Please copy and paste my post to include the link to donate Love you all! — with FamilyRespite Frs.

Posted in other Comments Off

Free Holiday Shipping

Free holiday Shipping!

We just started our Holiday Christmas sale: Free Shipping on everything! Check out our webite and shop for all of Andrew’s cool t-shirts and (online store code: Holiday2014)

For those that are new to GHA, the apparel company is run by Andrew Banar and his mom, Karen. Andrew, a young fellow with Down syndrome is the artist behind the awesome designs. And what started as an idea to raise money for college, quickly grew into a thriving business, and now Andrew donates part of his proceeds to lots of great charities.

Posted in other Comments Off