Andrew Banar

Andrew Banar was born with Down Syndrome and has been challenged with many of the associated health issues. Andrew has always been happy and has lived life to its fullest. He is fearless and pursues interests and hobbies with excitement and dedication and he’s a great source of inspiration and love for his large circle of extended family & friends.

Andrew keeps very busy and active within the community. He graduated  from St. Clair College – Life Skills Program in June 2014,  works part time at Colasanti Tropical Gardens in Ruthven, has volunteered at the Leamington Hospital, volunteered at Walmart, and has worked at the Kingsville Golf Course. Andrew takes drum lessons and is also a serious fan of music and movies, and has attended a Barenaked Ladies & a Green Day concert.

Andrew has also been recognized for his leadership, entrepreneurial success, and his positive role model through many awards.

Andrew’s awards include:

– The Council For Exceptional Children
– Kit LaCasse Memorial Award, Grade 8 graduation
– Kit LaCasse Memorial Award, Grade 12 graduation
– Cougar Challenge Award, Grade 12 graduation
– Lions Club of Kingsville, Certificate for Community volunteerism
– Canadian Down syndrome Hero Award
– Queens Diamond Jubilee Award
– Rick Hansen Difference Maker Recognition
– Community Inclusion Award, Community Living Essex County
– Spirit of Philanthropy Award, Professional Fundraising Association

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak who nominated and ultimately presented Andrew with the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award: “Andrew is a community leader by any standards,” Natyshak said, “someone who makes a difference 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.”

Minister of Community and Social Services Ted McMeekin met Andrew and congratulated him on his Community Inclusion award along with Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza. “ When I heard about Andrew, I wanted to meet him”, said McMeekin. McMeekin also called Andrew a “pace setter.” “ You are cutting new turf,” the minister told Andrew. “ You work hard at what you do and it shows. You are a good role model and I’m proud of you.”


One day Andrew was talking to his mom about his cousin who went to college. Andrew had decided he wanted to go to college and got an idea to raise some money. He wanted to have a lemonade stand, but his mom noticed one of his rock & roll drawings. She thought it would be cool if Andrew sold t-shirts printed with his drawings. They got some shirts, printed them up, and… they were a big hit!

Calling their little business venture, Group Hug Apparel, Andrew and his mom Karen sell the popular tees, hoodies, and other cool items at a slew of events, festivals, and charity fundraisers (and world wide through the GHA web store) with a portion of the proceeds donated to many important charities and community organizations.

Andrew and his family have spent enough time in various hospitals to know that it’s important to support these organizations. Plus, Andrew has a great time meeting lots of new people and spreading his infectious smile!

Andrew has supported over the years:

~ Purchasing toys and gifts for children who are sick in the Windsor and London hospitals.

~ Cooking classes for young adults who have Down syndrome.

New Stuffed Bears/Toys for children involved in:

~ Transitions To Betterness ~ Kids Kicking Cancer Program

~ In Honour Of The Ones We Love ~ Kids Beating Cancer programs.

Ginger Bread House making days for children with intellectual and physical disabilities. He also gave every child a gift for Christmas.
Following are the groups that benefited

~ Windsor Family Respite Services

~ W.E. Care For Kids House

~ Hotel Dieu Grace Children’s Centre

~ Community Living Essex County

~ Andrew’s mom receives e-mails from families who have little ones who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments often. Andrew will mail them one of his “Be Strong Rock On” tee’s to help them be brave & strong during their stay. He likes to include a letter with each shirt to let them know that friendship is important. Andrew has been doing this since 2008 and he has raised over $40,000.00 to date. This could not happen without everyone’s generous support!

“Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time.

If you have any questions or comments,  email: Karen Pickle (Andrew’s mom!) —

Check out the GHA Online Store – Shop Page.

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