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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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 ( 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

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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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Mason’s Fight

Andrew had the opportunity to meet his new friend Mason last week and he gave him, along with his mom and dad some of his “Be Strong Rock On” shirts. Andrew enjoys giving his shirts to little ones to help keep them brave and strong during an illness or receiving treatments. He calls them “his super hero shirts”. Mason had returned home from London Sick Children’s hospital the day before and his momma thought that it was a good time to meet him while he was feeling well. It was so nice to finally meet Chantelle and Mason and to see first hand at how brave and strong they are for each other.

If you ever have the opportunity to meet this amazing momma, you will see true beauty and positive energy that she has for her 3 year old son Mason. Chantelle is so soft spoken and focused on what is important right here, right now for Mason.
On Mason’s face book page ” Mason’s Fight”, Chantelle writes that on April 24th 2015, their world changed when Dr’s discovered a mass in his pelvic area pushing on his bladder. After being transferred to London Sick Children’s Hospital and many tests later, it was confirmed that Mason had stage 2 Rhabdomyosarcoma embryonal cancer.
For Mason, he has begun his 43 weeks of treatment, will under go some surgery and receive radiation to kick this disease out of him and this is where his mom and dad are amazing. They are not looking back just forward, towards Mason’s future and what they need to do today, one test, one treatment & one day at a time. Making sure that Mason can enjoy his toys & trucks that he loves and everything else that a 3 year old should be enjoying, his childhood.
Mason may be your Hero mom and dad, but i am sure that one day he will recognize that you are his hero’s as well. A family of true super Hero’s. That’s pretty cool.

Please follow this wonderful family for updates on face book ~ Mason’s Fight. You can share your love and support for Mason and we will continue to share ours with you as well. We are praying for you Mason, Andrew say’s “you got this buddy”.
Sending you love.

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Mom Of The Month and a Birthday.

I woke this morning at 7 am to Andrew making me coffee and a couple of text messages from loved ones and an e mail from Moma Deb.

Text messages
…Good morning Karen, I hope you have a Happy Birthday today!!
…GM, we hope you have a fantastic birthday!
…Happy Happy Special birthday! Make it a great day. See you tomorrow.

How lucky am I. And back to…… I awoke to Andrew making me coffee and giving me a birthday card. The idea of Andrew remembering my birthday was that much more special and meaningful to me. It’s not like i reminded him every day like he does for his birthday lol
We sat out side, drank coffee (Andrew orange juice) and talked…. but the thing that Andrew was most excited about (and so was I) was the birthday card he picked out for me.

(front cover) “Mom, just a little reminder……(inside) …. that you’re my HERO. Happy Birthday”. Mom, I love you very much! Love Andrew.

The best part he said was the fridge magnet that was inside of the card. It was of “Wonder Woman” with the saying “Mom’s got it under control!” He said that i need to put it on the fridge to see it every day……and so it is there to remind me of the wonderful son i have and shhhhhh the truth is that Andrew is my HERO and is the reason i am the woman i am today.

So with that being said, I have been crying since i woke up this morning and continued too as i read an e-mail and this blog that was written by a beautiful lady “Mama Deb”.

….Hi Lovely Lady!

Congrats on being my August Mom of the Month! I will profile you each month and I hope you enjoy our interview!

Mama Deb

Before you continue to read Moma Deb’s blog, everyone who knows me or follows Group Hug Apparel, knows that i constantly talk about Andrew and everything that he does… the tables got turned when I was approached to speak about myself… and you would not believe how difficult that can be. I am so very honoured to share a side of myself with all of you today.

August Mom of the Month!

When you speak with Karen, she immediately radiates that she loves life and sees things a little differently than most people. One of her favourite sayings and quite frankly her daily mantra is “Be blessed for what you have as it can change in a moment”. She knows this all too well and you will see why from our interview. Raising her amazing son Andrew has been a joy.

Please read more here:
August – Mom Of The Month – Karen Pickle

Thank You so much for being part of my birthday today even though Andrew asked me this morning with a straight face. “Mom, your 32 right” how could i not say yes that handsome face.

Karen Pickle ~ Andrew’s mom

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The Visit

The words may not be many, the visit may not be long,
His warmth is from his heart, way deep down inside.
Its honest and unconditional without any hesitation.
He wants to help others and provide some comfort when their not feeling well
or just hold your hand.
This may not be much but he loves doing it and always will.
This is who Andrew is and I love him for all he has to offer.

Andrew met a couple of little ones at London’s Children’s Hospital this weekend.
The first little man was handsome Lukas Reinhart, who was just on his way home and his momma was so thrilled to finally meet Andrew and to take some pictures of these two. Lukas received a little shirt and a letter from Andrew several months ago while he was sick in the hospital. Lukas momma, made me cry with the beautiful words she shared about Andrew. “My children met a true Hero today”. Andrew does not spin webs, or leap tall buildings. He does not rescue people from burning homes or stop trains from crashing or leaving the tracks. But what i have noticed is that he provides a small bit of comfort and love towards others and is so happy in doing this. Lukas, we are so happy that you are headed home and that we had the chance to meet you.

The second little man that Andrew met was adorable Kevin Fast. Kevin’s momma heard that Andrew was going to be in London and asked if we could stop by to meet her baby Kevin. Andrew was thrilled to present Kevin with a stuffed toy “bigger than he is” and to say a prayer for him while he sat by his bedside. The quiet, caring young man that i saw in my son today, made me so proud to be his mother. There is a gentle soul that wants to sooth and provide a comfort for so many. We pray that Kevin will be going home soon to be with his family.

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No one Fights alone!

Andrew, you are my Hero.

You fight every step of the way and always take chances.
You are always willing to learn and try new things.
You my son, have showed me that everyone has the ability to achieve.
You have taught me patience and understanding in times when you fully do not understand yourself.
You taught me that things need to be modified and adjusted so you do understand them better. And to help make your ideas more simplified so you enjoy experiencing it even in the simplest way.
You taught me from the day you were born that I will need to have an open mind and heart, not only with who you are but the man you will become, and to do this unconditionally.
You taught me how to give and how to accept.
Andrew, my son, you are my Hero, my daily inspiration. I Love You!

~ mom ~

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Andrew helping young adults with Down syndrome achieve a higher education

Andrew is doing something really awesome with his Group Hug Apparel. He is helping individuals who have Down syndrome achieve a higher education by being part of Rubys Rainbow on line auction. Andrew fulfilled his dream of attending college in 2014, now he is helping others fulfill theirs. Head over to and see all of the wonderful items up for bid including some of Andrews wonderful designs.

Ruby’s Rainbow was inspired by their own lil’ lady, Ruby. At her birth, they discovered that she had an extra special chromosome. Their expectations for her did not change and they vowed as a family to give her all of the opportunities they could to learn, grow, flourish and become an important contributor to society and to the community.

Life and learning doesn’t stop after high school and they want to help these amazing individuals with Down syndrome reach their highest potential.

The goal at Ruby’s Rainbow is to grant scholarships to adults with Down syndrome seeking post secondary education, enrichment or vocational classes who feel that higher education is the right choice for them.

It is their mission to create awareness of the capabilities of these amazing individuals and help them achieve their dreams of higher education. They plan to keep track of the recipients and they hope that this will inspire others to go for their dreams! The auctions runs from now June 27th to July 11th. Now go and bid on some really awesome items and help fulfill some dreams. Ruby’s Rockin Boutique.

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Be Strong Rock On Dinner

What is a Friend ~ A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause, a comrade. ” To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world”. To all of you, you mean everything!

As many of you know, Andrew was one of the winners of this year’s Canadian Down Syndrome
Hero Award. We are so proud of him and what he’s accomplished, and his amazing positive
attitude and spirit. Through Group Hug Apparel, Andrew also helps other children through
our “Be Strong Rock On” Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At Campaign.
On June 19th, we honoured Andrew at a pasta fundraiser held at Colasanti Tropical Gardens with proceeds going towards his “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time Campaign” and a NEW Cardinal Carter Bursary honouring Andrew.
I am so incredibly thankful to our community and all of the people who have embraced Andrew with open arms. All of the people who have made Andrew part of their lives, and their family’s lives, and all those who support him and his amazing journey through life.
Together we raised $5110.92 and I know that we could not have done it without the LOVE & SUPPORT from our amazing community and hard working committee members.
Thank you so very much!

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Introducing “Julia” a nail polish like no other

We are so very proud to announce  “Julia”
a nail polish that was created by Andrew and inspired by his girlfriend Julia.

Andrew is always searching for that perfect shade of polish and when he could not find it what else could he do. Well if you know Andrew….. that’s right, he created his own.

Together with Pam Heil owner of Girly Bits Cosmetics they mixed, poured and glittered themselves to come up with the perfect polish called “Julia”.

Pam said “I am extremely proud to introduce our collaboration… Julia. A bright bubble gum, hot neon pink shimmery polish with light microglitter, silver flakes and a smidge of holographic sparkle. Super girly!”

$3.00 from the sale of each bottle will go toward Andrew’s Helping Sick Kids One T-Shirt At A Time Campaign.
Thank you Pam for helping Andrew with this really special project. We are so excited to announce this to the world today.

Check out some behind the scenes pictures of Pam and Andrew creating the perfect polish. The making of “Julia”.  ALSO – video from behind the scenes.

If you are local to Kingsville, Ontario Canada there is a celebration dinner being planned in Andrew’s honour for Friday, June 19th starting at 5pm at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens. Tickets can be purchased at the door tonight.


“Julia” is available for pre-order starting NOW!

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Pasta Dinner/Fundraiser Honouring Andrew – Canadian Down Syndrome Hero

Pasta Dinner/Fundraiser Honouring Andrew Banar ~ Canadian Down syndrome Hero 2015

Friday June 19th at Colasanti Tropical Gardens 1550 Rd 3 E. Kingsville ON
Tickets $20 each (cash only)

All proceeds go toward Andrew’s  ongoing “Helping Sick Kids One Shirt At A Time” campaign and a new Cardinal Carter bursary honouring Andrew.

Doors open at 5 pm – Buffet Dinner served 5:30 – 7:30 – Speeches, raffle prizes & entertainment to follow – cash bar

Tickets can be purchased on line and at the following locations:
At the door for tonights event only.

For more information:
(Tara) 519-996-8187 or
(Karen) 519-819-5250

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