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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Helping Sick Kids Bowl A Thon

On April 11th, 2015 Group Hug Apparel will be hosting Andrew Banar’s Helping Sick Kids Bowl a Thon with proceeds benefiting W. E. Care For Kids Foundation. The event will take place at Super Bowl Lanes 10000 Tecumseh Rd. E Windsor ON from 11 – 3 pm. Andrew is doing this as part of his Annual Birthday Wish called “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” with Random Acts Of Kindness for others.

A minimum of $30 per person in pledges, or donations is required to participate. This includes bowling, shoe rental, 1 hot dog, 1 pop and 1 raffle ticket. All proceeds will benefit W.E. Care for Kids!

To register your team, please contact Karen Pickle (519) 819-5250. Pledge forms available for download, by clicking the provided link!  Bowling Pledge Form


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Tan Lines And The Salon – Fundraiser

Less than two months after hearing her son, 8 year old Shane’s cancer had returned, Jennifer Jensen was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

On Thursday April 2nd from 10 am to 6 pm
Employees from Tan Lines and The Salon will be participating in Group Hug Apparel’s 2nd Annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” designer, Andrew Banar’s birthday wish of doing Random Acts of Kindness for others.

Andrew Banar born with Down syndrome and many health related issues that accompany Down syndrome will be 24 on April 5th and wants nothing more for his birthday than for others to do something kind for someone else that day or the week before or why not even the week after. Andrew and his family know how important its is to help others as they have seen first hand how families struggle when a medical issue arises. Andrew always says “it’s important to help others” so on April 2nd, just before Andrew’s birthday employees from Tan Lines and The Salon will be busy all day donating their time and providing manicures, pedicures & hair cuts with proceeds helping Jennifer Jensen and her son Shane.
Tan Lines – The Salon manager Samantha George wanted to get involved with Andrew’s “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” and approached Andrew’s mom, Karen Pickle about different ideas. Together they came up with the idea of helping Jennifer and her son Shane. “Andrew is always doing great things within our community and I just knew that we should help make his birthday wish come true”, said Samantha. What a better way to get involved and help someone else as well.

Cash only services for that day only with hair cuts and styles, kids cuts, make up, manicures & pedicures, blow outs, up styles along with raffles prizes that will include a grand prize of a full colour service make over.
If you are interested in participating in Andrew’s “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” call to book your appointment 519-733-1112 & stop by Tan Lines – The Salon at 149 Lansdowne Ave in Kingsville ON N9Y 1S4 for a day of pampering with proceeds benefiting Jennifer and her son Shane. If you cannot make it that day but want to donate, please feel free to contact Karen Pickle (Andrew’s mom) to discuss further. 519-819-5250

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W.E. Care Donor Spotlight

We are so very honoured that Andrew and his Group Hug Apparel business was chosen to be the W.E. Care Donor Spotlight for the month of March from W.E. Care For Kids Foundation. What a wonderful month to be recognized since March 21st we will be celebrating World Down Syndrome Day. Thank you so much for loving Andrew and what he does for others.
This momma is so very proud of all Andrew has accomplished. #seetheabilities #WDSD2015 #helpingothers #BeTheReasonSomeoneSmilesDay #cdss #donorspotlight #RockYourSocksWDSD2015

Group Hug Apparel, founded by Andrew Banar, has been supporting W.E. Care for Kids for several years, and has raised over $3,000 for the Foundation. Andrew was born with Down Syndrome and has been challenged with many of the associated health issues. Due to Andrew’s health, he and his family learnt first hand the importance of supporting local health programs. Thank You to Andrew Banar and Group Hug Apparel for your support and helping us provide great paediatric health care, right here – at home!

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Andrew’s 3rd Blog Post

Monday – Family Day
We sold shirts at Colasanti’s for Calvin. He is sick in the hospital. I am praying for Calvin to get better soon.

I worked at my job. I helped my boss Ashley with making flyers. They go in bags for customers. I like helping Ashley. Colasantis has good chicken.

My mom and I mailed shirts to sick kids today. I wrote letters to them so they feel better.

I visit at the seniors home. I like doing that with my mom. Its nice to visit with them.

My mom and I helped make ribbons with my friends. They are blue and yellow. I am selling Ribbons for World Down Syndrome Day. This is March 21st. I worked hard.

It’s not cool to be a bully. Give hugs and love. I shared my picture with everyone.

I hope you like my blog.

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Andrew’s 2nd Blog Post

Andrew’s Blog:


We went to the mall to sell My shirts. I helped We Care For Kids from my sales. We met Olaf and lots of nice people.

We Went to london for my Dr Appointment. They checked my heart with The Echo Machine. I saw my heart moving on the screen. It was cool. I will go back in A year. It is Congenital Heart Defect Month. Be good to your heart.

Monday night
We Went to the cooking class at Zehrs With my friends.
We made chicken Cordon Bleu, garden salad with french dressing, tomato mozzarella Bread. I love Hanging out with my friends.

I work At Colasanti’s I like my job
I help in Arcade And mini golf course. I also help in the store after Lunch.
My grandma picked me up at work today.

Tuesday night
I had drum lessons with Dave. It is always fun. I played a song called uptown funk by Bruno Mars. I nailed it.
I had dinner with my cousin after my lessons. We went to Boston pizza. Chicken wings and no pizza.

This was a fun day for me. I did not work. I went to St. Clair College with my mom. We spoke to students and had lunch. I gave out Valentine Hearts and they gave me a big card. I like talking to students about my life. They liked it to.

I hope you like my blog.

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Congenital Heart Defect Month

I woke up this morning with one of those nagging worries that I could not put my finger on. My heart and mind was racing and I just could not figure out why when everyone else is sleeping I woke up in the we hours unsure of what my body was going through. I quietly got up, made a coffee and sat in my big comfy chair and reflected on the way I was feeling. I decided to look a yesterdays pictures that I took, to pivot and change the way I was feeling and then it struck me even harder. Monday morning is Andrew’s heart check up at the London Health Science Centre.
Seeing this picture of Andrew holding the miniature heart on a stick over his own heart for Congenital Heart Defect month, I began to cry. I am a strong momma bear, but in this moment the worries came flooding in along with all of the what if’s? What if this is the year his Doctor says,” his heart is functioning less than his already 64%”. What if he say’s, “Andrew’s heart is larger than last year? What if this is the year that we will be facing “again”. The “again” that we have been suppressing in that area of our minds that nobody ever wants to have surface, open Heart surgery again.
In that moment, which seemed to last for a long time, I looked up towards the ceiling, knowing I was seeing past the drywalled ceiling, past the shingles and insulation, past the coldness of the winter that has blanketed our home and into heaven where my grandmother would be looking down at me, wagging her crooked finger and saying lovingly to me “Karrie (she always called me Karrie) sometimes a good cry is all we need to keep us stronger”. Thank you for being with me this morning Grandma and for reminding me that I am blessed to have a son like Andrew who will keep me strong and focussed even if in the we hours of the morning I sit quietly having a good cry. I know things will be Ok and he will have a good check up. I just hate the what ifs.

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Andrew’s First Blog Post

Andrew Banar post about my week
On monday I had A free day. I Played Rock band on the ps3 and it was fun.
I played the drums I practice welcome home by Coheed and Cambria. it is cool song.
I like free days.

On Tuesday I worked at Colasanti’s. I helped to take tokens out of the games. Then I had lunch with employees. Then I went to fruits stand with Tracy. I worked hard.

After work I met my neighbours Carter, Ava their mom Tina. We played golf, some games and went on rides. It was fun hanging out with my neighbours. my mom and Tina had fun too.

My Cousin Kyle took me to Jam Space for drums practice with David.
After drums practice we went to Billys restaurant to eat. I had wings with fries and pop. That was my day. goodbye

Saturday my mom and I went to a skating pizza party. We met our friends Matt, Stephanie, Hazel and Nola. This is Hazel.

I fell on the ice and i hurt my elbow. It is okay now. We laughed hard.

Mom Post:
Andrew wanted to write about what he does during the week and i thought it was a great idea! So this is Andrew’s very first post and i know with more practice he will have more things to share with all of you.
What may take most of us a few minutes to write has taken Andrew 3 days and several hours each day. This is a wonderful accomplishment for him and i am so very proud of his patience and willingness to continue.

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Luka’s Birthday Wish

Andrew met an amazing young man along with his family …. and what he wanted for his own Birthday this year was so touching and heart warming we had to share it with all of you.

Luka Mesic, now 13 years old plays hockey for one of the Junior Spitfire Teams in Windsor. He celebrated his birthday this past week and gave Andrew the opportunity to meet his entire team, the trainers, coaches and some really awesome parents of some of the players. Andrew even got to do warm ups with the team and called out the teams starting line up in the change room ahead of time. Thank you for giving Andrew this opportunity, he had a blast and felt just like a team player!

Luka’s wonderful mom Liz contacted me by way of e-mail and she wanted to share with me what her son wanted for his birthday this year. Now, you might think that it would have been a Birthday Party & cake with the latest and greatest video games, or phone devices, gift cards etc. (I know, because Andrew is into all of those ideas himself) BUT it was not any of those things. Instead of a Birthday Party and gifts, Luka approached his mom and wanted to purchase Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel shirts for each of his team mates and coaches. (Tears were flowing as i was reading this letter from Liz).
Luka and his brother Adam received Andrew’s shirts several years ago from their mom and attached was information about why Andrew was selling his shirts. Saving money for college.

After all these years, Luka (probably 8 or 9 at the time) remembered that Andrew was saving money for college and he wanted to contribute to help make this happen. (OMG and of course, i started crying again). How thoughtful this was, coming from a boy turning 13 years old. Mom and dad, i must say that you have raised an amazing son.
After sharing with Liz and Luka that Andrew had graduated in June 2014 from St. Clair Colleges Life Skills Program, Luka was still pumped about helping Andrew out for his future endeavours of Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time.

Luka picked out each shirt and Andrew carefully packaged them with the players and coaches names on them for the big surprise and they were a big hit. The players wore their shirts at the recent game and Andrew was so honoured to have his picture taken with them.

Thank you so much Luka, for taking an early part in Andrew’s 2nd Annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” happening April 5th for Andrew’s Birthday Wish of doing Random Acts Of Kindness for someone else. You have done this already with your team and being so kind to Andrew. We hope you had a great Happy Birthday Luka and thank you for putting a smile on Andrew’s face, your really awesome in his books as well as mine!

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Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day – 2nd Annual btw

Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day

Ok everyone, put your thinking caps on, come up with some awesome ideas and lets make our 2nd Annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” on April 5th a huge success for Andrew’s birthday wish.

You all know that we would absolutely love to be with each and everyone of you on this day but unfortunately it’s not humanly possible. If you, a group of friends, your class mates, school, community group, sports team or your business are planning on taking part of a Random Act of Kindness for our “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” we would love to see it happen. Take a picture OR a video and share with us what you have done for someone else. Think prior to April 5th…… and if you want Andrew to stop by for a group picture and fill him in on what your planning on doing we would love to help promote it.
We have several groups wanting to do some really special Acts of Kindness and we will be making our rounds (Windsor/Essex County) to visit them prior to help raise awareness. Please contact us and we will try to make arrangements to stop by your place as well.
If you want and you have one of Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel shirt designs, maybe wear it that day honouring his birthday. Please please don’t forget to hashtag #BeTheReasonSomeoneSmilesDay and share it, post it, tweet it on media pages for the world to see how awesome you all are. You really are!
Feel free to print one of our postcard pictures of Andrew and bring it with you during your Random Act. You may just need a reminder of the date and having a friendly smile looking at you just may do it :)

Thank you so much!
Karen & Andrew

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Kids Kicking Cancer in Windsor

Andrew had the honour of meeting some really amazing children during a Karate belting ceremony for the “Kids Kicking Cancer” program held at Hospice Windsor. Andrew handed out new Teddy Bears to each of them to help provide them with some comfort during the challenges that they have in front of them.
Our friends at Transition to Betterness (T2B) piloted Canada’s first KKC in Windsor, Ontario in 2010 and seeing how important and beneficial it is for these young children and their families this program continues to grow with great pride and success.

Kids Kicking Cancer is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides weekly classes for children, both inpatient and outpatient, in the mind-body techniques found in the martial arts. There mission is “to ease the pain of very sick children while empowering them to heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.”

Certified Black Belt instructors teach the mind-body techniques of Martial arts instruction, breath work and meditation to empower children beyond the pain and discomfort of disease. Kids Kicking Cancer’s mission is to ease the pain of very sick children while empowering them to heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.

All services provided by Kids Kicking Cancer are at no cost to the children and their families and they offer programs and services for children as young as three years old. For more information about this wonderful program please feel free to look at their website Kids Kicking Cancer

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Happy New Year 2015

2014 was a wonderful year for Andrew & his Group Hug Apparel. We met so many wonderful people that touched our lives in so many ways. Throughout this past year, we were contacted by people from around the world that shared with us stories of their loved ones who were either sick in hospital or going through treatment for an illness. We heard stories of people overcoming challenges and of people wanting to help others because they were inspired. We cried together, we laughed together and we became friends together and some times we just listened because this is all that was wanted. That silent shoulder for someone to lean on and be there.
From all of these heartfelt stories and friendships, Andrew’s “Be Strong Rock On Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” campaign began. We wanted to provide children with one of Andrew’s “Be Strong Rock On” shirts and a Teddy Bear to help make them feel stronger and a little safer during their hospital stay or going through treatments. It was nice seeing everyone hashtag #BeStrongRockOn with some of their pictures that they shared with us. Thank You.We celebrated World Down syndrome Day on March 21st by supporting people that we loved with Down syndrome by wearing crazing socks. We received many wonderful pictures of people from around the world who Rocked their socks for someone. What a great day that was. Don’t forget to “Rock Your Socks” again on world Down syndrome day and remember to hashtag #rockyoursocks and post them on media pages for all to see or share them with us again. We love seeing pictures of everyone honouring someone that they with Down syndrome.On April 5th 2014, Andrew’s birthday wish began. Instead of receiving gifts for his birthday, Andrew wanted others to provide Random Acts Of Kindness and so we started our “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” campaign. It was a huge success. So everyone get your thinking caps on for 2015 campaign and this year hashtag #BeTheReasonSomeoneSmiles and post it on media pages for everyone to see.In December we held our Gingerbread House Making Fundraiser for Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel Helping Sick Kids campaign. With the wonderful support from Zehrs in Kingsville, we were also able to provide many children with intellectual and physical disabilities the opportunity to make Gingerbread Houses and have a day of holiday fun. We are excited to make this an annual event.We wrapped up the year by handing out many wonderful New Teddy Bears and Toys to sick children for Christmas but this could not have been possible without all of your generosity and your continued support and love for who Andrew is and what he does for others. Happy New Year from one proud momma, Andrew and his Group Hug Apparel. We hope to see you in 2015.

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Andrew’s Annual Birthday Wish Celebration

Andrew’s birthday is just around the corner, oh and for the record he reminds me almost daily lol.
This will be Group Hug Apparel’s Second Annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” for Andrew’s Birthday Wish. Please join us April 5th, the day before, the week after or when ever by celebrating the day by helping others with Random Acts Of Kindness.

Print off our “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” picture/post card of Andrew and give with your random acts of kindness. Take pictures of your random acts and post them on social media pages with the hashtag #BeTheReasonSomeoneSmilesDay

Lets make Andrew’s birthday wish come true. It’s that easy.

Andrew was born with Down syndrome and he has his own little business called Group Hug Apparel. Andrew sell’s some really cool shirts with his own designs on them with proceeds benefiting many charities and sick children. Andrew’s Birthday Wish is for others to do something really cool and kind for someone else. It will be a “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” How fun is that!

Thank you for joining Andrew’s Annual #BeTheReasonSomeoneSmilesDay Birthday wish celebration. Invite your friends and celebrate with him. If you have face book here is our link to join in and share. Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day.

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Without Your Help We Could Not Have Done This

Group Hug Apparel has had a wonderful Christmas season with so many wonderful donations for Andrew’s Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time campaign and his Teddy Bear Campaign. Without your generosity, we would not have been able to help out with so many wonderful children’s charities and families. Without your help, we would not have been able to collect well over 1000 teddy bears and toys that went to so many beautiful children who are sick in hospital, going through treatment or children with intellectual and or physical disabilities within our community and neighbouring communities. Without all of your continued support we just could not have made this happen and Andrew wants to continue to help others to “Be Strong & Rock On” for as long as he can. May your holiday season be filled with Peace, Joy & Happiness and may it continue throughout the years.
Sharing our love with you all!
Karen & Andrew

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Little Ninjas Christmas Party

Andrew & I were so honoured to be part of the In Honour of the Ones We Love Christmas Party for it’s Little Ninjas at the Ciaciaro Club. Santa & Mrs Clause were there to hand out presents and the Junior Spitfirs escorted each child to meet Santa & Mrs Claus. How beautiful seeing so many smiles on all of these beautiful faces. Andrew gave out a New Teddy Bear/stuffed toy to each child as well from his “Helping Sick Kids Teddy Bear Campaign”. Andrew has been collecting New Stuffed Bears/toys over the year so he could help make Christmas a little brighter for children who are sick or going through treatment. It was such an honour being part of this celebration.  Visit In Honour for more information. Photos by Simon Wyn Edwards Photography

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

When you see a little one sick or going through treatment for an illness you hope that a few moments of their day can be filled with happiness & joy. Andrew hopes to bring those feelings to others all year round including this Christmas Season from his Group Hug Apparel “Be Strong Rock On Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” Teddy Bear campaign.
Andrew & I dropped off gifts to Lisa from Child Life Services at Windsor Regional Hospital with hopes of making some little hearts smile even if for a few moments.

Thank you to everyone that helped make this years Teddy Bear Drive a huge success. Without all of your generosity and continued support for Andrew and his Group Hug Apparel it would not have been possible. Thank you so so so much not only from Andrew but his proud momma…… and tears are flowing again. Next year will be even bigger so start looking for those unique New Stuffed Teddy Bears starting ……. now. It’s never to early to plan ahead. We love you & Merry Christmas everyone!

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