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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
SAVE THE DATE:
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.
OR by contacting:
Karen Pickle email@example.com 519-819-5250
Tara Brown firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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”. Andrew sends these shirts, along with a stuffed animal and a special hand written note to little ones all over Canada, the US and overseas. We even hand deliver these special packages when we can.
A portion of the sales from Andrew’s shirt sales online and at local markets and fairs, are also donated to local charities such as W.E. Care For Kids, Children’s Health Foundation, Community Living Essex County and Transition to Betterness, just to name a few.
“Meeting Gracie along with you and the rest of your family Kim
helped us to create a special campaign of
#HelpingSickChildrenOneShirtAtATime. Andrew has always given to
others from his sales, but focusing on the little ones who were sick in
the hospital or receiving treatments for an illness or in need of a
heart transplant 🙂 made this focus that much more specific and that
much more special. It’s because of your beautiful granddaughter
that Andrew has gone on to helping so many others. We’ve gained a
friendship and witnessed kindness from a wonderful family who
chose to donate their loved ones organs so others had the chance to
experience so much of what life has to offer.
We are blessed to see this picture and to see your beautiful smiles.
❤ Thank you for sharing it with us. “ ~ Karen and Andrew
”Sophie and I wearing our Group Hug Apparel shirts. If you
haven’t checked them out you should. Andrew Banar started
selling clothing to help pay for college and donating to
charities and also helping kids who are sick.”
“The shirts are super soft and comfortable to wear. We will
definitely be ordering more in the near future.”
Greg (Sophie’s Dad)
Sophie’s Story T21 www.facebook.com/SophiesStoryT21/
To date, Andrew has donated over $65,000.00 towards the charities he supports
from his ongoing “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time” campaign.
If you are interested in supporting Andrew and live near or far, you can do so by be a sponsor of one of his “Bear In A Bag” gifts that he gives to children who are sick or receiving treatment for an illness. Your sponsorship will help cover the costs of shipping and some of the gifts added to each backpack.
Feel free to share his page with others. It helps to keep his love travelling around the world and keeps his page active.
And a big thank you for following Andrew and everything he does.
Love ~ Karen (Andrew’s mom)
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.
~ 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 starts November 21st and ends Midnight November 27th 2016.
Keep an eye open for Andrew’s annual Black Friday Week Sale! 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 $50,000.00 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.
So get your Christmas list ready to get all your shopping sone before the sale is over.
If we spend time judging, who we are…….
It takes time away from Loving, ……who we really are!
Our world shows us these quick glimpses of ways to live. We see theses images everyday. From people we meet to images on TV or social media. We see these up to second reports of what’s going on around us. Mostly snippets of other people’s lives. We see theses images daily and at times, it can consumes who we are.
When I find myself being overloaded with theses images, and find myself judging who I am. I remind myself to see life and the world around me, the way Andrew does.
He looks at everyone equally. With the same compassion going from person to person, showing no judgement, no faults. Andrew shows true honesty and acceptance of everyone he meets. He doesn’t know how to waste time judging who he is by all of these images that surround him. He is consumed with loving life. And I’m consumed with him leading my way.
If we spend time judging who we are, it takes time away from loving who we really are.
I am so grateful that you helped me chose my path in life many years ago. And I’m blessed to share it with so many wonderful people along the way, especially you.
Since we have started this journey together, I have learnt that many people may pass you by, moving quicker and faster, accomplishing things at a different speed than you do. Some days you may notice and others you may not and it doesn’t seem to bother you at all, and that’s okay with you. And it’s because of this, you have shown me how to see life, in your own way, through your own perspective. And this is so beautiful to see. You’ve shown me how to greet people with smile’s and hello’s and often a hug or two before continuing on our way. And it’s because of you, that my life is like this, and I am happy to experience it with you. You, the young man that takes his time, smelling the flowers, enjoying the scenery and always walking by my side.
You have shown me so many wonderful and beautiful things along our journey and most importantly, you have taught me to…..take…..my…. time… to walk…..a…..little…..slower and….experience….life ….at your pace. And do you know what, I enjoy our walks that much more. I’ve learnt to slow down and not rush along the way, so we can have beautiful and meaningful conversations about life. About what goals we can achieve together and how we can approach life each and every day. Some days we do this more quietly, by taking our time, working together so we can really appreciate all that surrounds us.
My daily path was chosen for me many years ago and I am so grateful to be walking it with you, my son, Andrew.
Love your mom xoxo
Wow! What a way of ending the summer with 4 full days fun at the 162nd Annual Harrow Fair
….check out some of these fantastic pictures that were taken over the weekend and look at how much fun everyone had. Andrew would like to let everyone know that even though he was not feeling well and he missed out on the last two days (when he was there he had a great time hanging out with his friends, going on rides, seeing all the animals and of course being the social butter fly he is), he would like to thank everyone who stopped by to support him by purchasing some of his Group Hug Apparel designs. He would also like to thank all the help that was given to his “Help Fill A Back Pack With Andrew” fundraiser. It’s so wonderful that he received many wonderful donations of new stuffed animals, colouring books, crayons and more. He will put these items into back packs and deliver them to Children who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments for an illness. We will keep you posted on how many he fills. Thank you.
Andrew also thought it was really cool when he heard that some people stopped by our booth to take him on ride’s, milk some cows, grab something to eat and of course and take some great pictures with him.
He really loved seeing all the pictures and i loved seeing all the love that was shown for him. This makes me one proud mom.
Andrew said that he will help lots of children who were sick from my sales…. and again, I’m one proud mom. A big THANK YOU to everyone.
Help Fill A Back Pack (Bear In A Bag) With Andrew Banar
Andrew Banar is a young man with Down syndrome and owner of Group Hug Apparel in Kingsville Ontario. Andrew has recently partnered with the Dollar Tree in Leamington ON for a really beautiful idea. He was so excited to meet everyone, talk about his ideas and now share them with all of you.
Andrew and the team at the Dollar Tree are looking for support from our gracious community. They need help to fill Back Packs full of wonderful items that will go to children who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatment for an illness. Andrew has health issues that relate to being born with Down syndrome and knows what it is like to be in the hospital, it’s not fun. So Andrew has made it his goal to help them feel better. He say’s, “its important to help others.” and wants to help cheer them up while they are going through their health issues.
So if you could please consider supporting Andrew and his idea of helping others, he would greatly appreciate you kindness.
Ways You Can Help Out:
During your visit to the Dollar Tree in Leamington from August 26th to September 6th, you could sponsor an item to go into a Back Pack when you check out for only $1.25 plus tax. Andrew thinks that this is pretty cool. You could also stop by to meet Andrew on Saturday August 27th from 10 – 5 and sponsor an item then. You could join in our bbq from 11-3 and get your face painted by Sunshine The Clown. Oh, and you will be entertained by the Stilts Guys (look way up) or purchase one of Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel shirts. Proceeds from this event will be supporting Andrew’s – Help Fill A Back Pack – Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time Campaign. Wow, and that’s just some of Andrew’s great ideas.
Here is another one for you. If you are not in our area but are still one of Andrew’s World Wide supporters, feel free to check out his Bear In A Bag gift Back Packs and consider sponsoring one. Each Back Pack will be filled with items that are hand selected by the man himself “Andrew” along with an awesome NEW stuffed animal or Toy that will go to a child on Andrew’s list of recipients to receive. Oh and Andrew will be honoured to include your name on his gift tag as a gracious sponsor.
Oh my, I cannot believe how excited Andrew is with everything that he has planned. He wanted to let you know that he has been working hard at his business since 2007 and to date he has donated over $50,000.00 towards helping others and he has set a goal to fill 50 Back Packs. Do you think he will? I hope he does with your help.
Mary Smith from Mississauga Ontario has been following Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel page and recently saw one of our fun posts that we shared with everyone.
It was all about our “Bird House” project that we started about a month ago and we are having so much fun.
This is one of our summer projects that we thought would be a great activity to do all while adding some beauty to our gardens. What do you think about the idea?
It gets our entire family involved.
Andrew picks out the bird houses and paint colours from our local Dollar Store and then we have a blast coming up with ways to paint them. We researched different ideas on line to get the artistic juices going and then we get painting. Dad always helps by hanging them on the fence for us. This is so we don’t drill our fingers to the fence or the bird houses, hmmm finger food for the birds doesn’t sound to appealing.
When Mary saw our post, she loved the idea so much that she mailed Andrew one of her own hand painted bird houses to include with our summer project. Andrew was so excited when he received it along with a beautiful card this past week. And we wanted to let Mary know that Andrew found a perfect spot for his gift. Thank you for your kindness and love, and we now have a beautiful friendship bird house garden started to go along with our “Bird House” wall. We love it!
Andrew is contacted often to help provide comfort for little one’s who are sick in the hospital or receiving treatments for an illness. He does this by sending packages to them with a new stuffed toys or one of his Group Hug Apparel ~ Be Strong Rock On shirts and sometimes by hand delivering “Bear In A Bag” gifts to them along with a note of encouraging words, kind thoughts and to say hello.
Just recently, we were contacted with a special request from a Bobbie Grubb who has been following Andrew and his business for several years. Bobbie shared the following note with us:
I know that Andrew is all about helping sick children, but i was wondering if he would be able to help two young children whose father is getting ready to start battling cancer.
My cousin’s husband was recently diagnosed with cancer. He is preparing himself for chemo and radiation therapies. They have two children Quinn 6 and Lucian 4. They told their 6 year old son who is having difficulty getting a grasp on the situation. They are very optimistic that they will overcome this obstacle. Please let me know if this is something you can do.
Speaking with Andrew, he wanted to help the same way that he helps other children who are sick or going through treatments, he wanted to give Quinn and Lucian one of his shirts and a new stuffed toy to keep them company. We stopped by for a visit yesterday and met two adorable little boys who see their dad as a their Super Hero and it brought tears to my eyes as we left.
Since our visit, I’ve learnt that their family does not have any health benefits and Nathan’s sick leave pay from work will not last as long as what was expected. With everything that they have in front of them, i want to share a go fund me page that was set up by a family member to help cover expenses as they arise during Nathan’s treatments. Please feel free to offer words of encouragement and prayers, this will help show that the community is thinking about them during this difficult time.
Even Super Heros need a hand sometimes.
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