Be Strong Rock On – documentary

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.

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Socks Socks Socks to Rock on World Down syndrome Day

I am gearing up for World Down syndrome Day on March 21st . World Down Syndrome Day is marked each year on March 21, beginning in 2006. The 21st day of March was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome. Every year on March 21, World Down Syndrome Day is observed to create awareness about Down syndrome. Here is a cool picture of what the chromosomes look like……sock style 🙂

I have created these amazing Be Cool Be Kind Be Brave Be You socks so you can join me and my friends in celebrating WDSD Do this by wearing them and by Rocking Your Socks that day to celebrate with us, oh heck, why not everyday! My mom says that we celebrate Down syndrome awareness everyday and I agree.

If you are interested in ordering a pair or two or three of my socks, please email my mom to make arrangements. You can pay world wide by PayPal or if in Canada by transfer. You can even stop by if you are in the neighborhood. But please message my mom here to get yours before they are all gone. Adult now and youth sizes will be available soon for $20 plus mailing costs if required. To contact us here is our email –  Karen Pickle ([email protected]) Or message us on (Instagram) or (Facebook) 🙂

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Adult Hoodies

Hi there! If you are interested in ordering any of my designs, please contact my mom. She would be happy to assist you….. she is my assistant LOL….. No really, she is. 🙂

I just picked out some awesome new colours this years hoodies. Check it out, I am wearing them below. I really like them and I hope that you do toooooo. The first colour is Antique Cherry Red. I will add my “Patch Jack” design to them. The second one comes in Dark Heather,  and I will be adding my “Rock On In a Winnebagel” design to them.

Antique Cherry Red Hoodie with my “Patch Jack design” can be ordered in S, M, L, XL, 2XL & 3XL $30 & $35 plus shipping if needed.

Dark Heather with my “Rock On In A Winnebagel” design can be ordered in S, M, L, XL, 2XL & 3XL $30 & $35 plus shipping if needed.

Message my mom Karen at: ([email protected]) for more information on sizes and shipping.

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Mother and Son Day

Who went to Point Pelee National Park today? We did and it certainly was a beautiful day to be outdoors. Fresh air and Andrew……a beautiful blessing.

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Andrew’s Birthday Wish

Join Andrew on April 5th in celebrating his annual “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day”, by doing a Random Act of Kindness for someone. Yup, that’s it, just pay it forward and spread some love.

What started out as a personal idea on Andrew’s 20th birthday 10 years ago, has turned into an annual event. So I guess we can officially say it’s been 10 years, or 30 if you count this momma’s own “Be The Reason Someone Smiles Day” celebration. If you are wondering, of course we celebrate Andrew’s birthday but most importantly, he continues the acts of kindness for others. This year it will be 30 Random Acts that he will be doing and he has come up with some great ideas. No matter what, it will be a joy to spread some extra kindness after the year that we have all seen.

Andrew has come up with some ideas to help spread some kindness if you want to join in.

Ideas :

Compliment a co-worker, teacher, boss or stranger.

Say hello to others and smile behind your mask.

Buy someone a coffee/tea or beverage.

Make treats to hand out to students, employees or co workers.

Call someone who is not able to get out of the house, 10 minutes would mean the world to them.

Offer to run an errand for a friend who finds it hard to leave their home during these difficult times.

Send an inspirational card to someone who maybe struggling.

Pick up your neighbors paper and bring it to their door.

Say some extra prayers for families who are struggling because of sickness or a loss. We can all use extra prayers right now.

Post some inspirational pictures on social media to make others smile……

The list is endless and we can add more ideas as the days go on. ❤

Let’s help make his birthday wish come true.

#andrewbanar #bethereasonsomeonesmiles #bethereasonsomeonesmilestoday #birthdaywishes #randomactsofkindness #becoolbekindbebravebeyou

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Andrew Speaking At AV Graham Public School

We love sharing beautiful memories of Andrew speaking at local schools. On this day, he spoke in front of hundreds of students from AV Graham public school in Tecumseh. He shared about his dreams, ideas and accomplishments. He also spoke about World Down syndrome Day that takes place on March 21st.

Andrew mentioned that sometimes he may do things different from others, and that it’s ok. He shared how his mom (me) 
looks at everything he does as potential and not being limited. Andrew mentioned that it may take longer to figure things out, may need more modifications, do things more than once, but if he’s not given the opportunity, how will others know if he can do things.
He also said that he wants to be an example of what a person can do if given the opportunity.

Thank you Andrew for inspiring so many people, including your mom.
#andrewbanar #grouphugapparel #seemyabilities #yesican #awareness #downsyndromeawareness

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How To Order Group Hug Apparel

If you are interested in purchasing some of Andrew’s awesome apparel,
please feel free to contact us below.

We would be happy to help you out.

We accept cash ( if picking up or delivering ) bank transfers and PayPal.

Thank you

Karen & Andrew

([email protected])

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Rock Your Socks ’50’s Style’

HEY THERE DADDY O’s,…. So, ‘Word from this cool cat’ is that he wants you to SAVE THE DATE and come “Rock Your Socks – 50’s Style” with Andrew Banar at his 5th Annual Group Hug Apparel Pasta Dinner Fundraiser to benefit his “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time” Campaign.

LOTS OF FAMILY FUN! You loved our photo booth last year so it will be returning (’50’s Style’) again, along with our awesome raffle prizes and a children’s area.

OFFERING AGAIN THIS YEAR…want to support Andrew’s fundraiser but can’t make it? We are including our ’pay-it-forward’ option to our tickets again this year. You can buy a ticket and have us pass it on to a local non-profit group! It’s a win-win!

SPONSORS AND DONATIONS ARE NEEDED! This event would not be possible without the generous community support it has been given over the past four years. If you can help out by contributing to event please send Group Hug Apparel a message! ([email protected]) or check out the link here: SPONSORSHIP FORMS

SO PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR! So you can ‘Burn Rubber’ on over to our ‘Pad’ (for the night) at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens on Friday, March 29th from 5pm to 9pm.

TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED IN ADVANCE, ONLINE HERE:…/rock-your-socks-fundraiser ‘Hard copy tickets’ available soon for anyone not purchasing them online.

Complete details will be following shortly on Group Hug Apparel’s media pages – Facebook Page, on Instagram and Twitter

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International Women’s Day


The Female Solopreneur is feeling excited.

We are beyond thrilled to announce that Karen Pickle will be the keynote speaker at our International Women’s Day breakfast. (The breakfast is actually the day after IWD, but it’s like a birthday, am I right?!? ? It deserves to be celebrated all weekend long!)

Join us on Saturday, March 9th from 8am-9:30am as Karen talks about, and shares her experiences as a business woman and mom, who found her passion, helping her son, Andrew, who was born with Down syndrome, run his own t-shirt business – Group Hug Apparel.

On top of printing, selling and shipping Andrew’s personally designed tees all over the world, Karen and Andrew have also turned their business venture into a thriving company, that not only supports Andrew’s future, but also supports many children’s charities and support groups.

They have also recently began organizing local activities like swimming, cooking and dancing for young adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Karen and Andrew have been sharing their story for years in the community, advocating for families and individuals, and most importantly, sharing hugs! We are so grateful that Karen will be sharing their story with us at the Women’s Expo 

Tickets ($25 each) are available NOW!

Must be purchased in advance. Space is limited!

($5 from each ticket will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities)

Pastries, fruit, coffee and tea to be served.…

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Free Fun Passes

Andrew has some wonderful news to share with everyone.
We have partnered with Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville ON to give away 1 Free Fun Pass with every purchase of one of Andrew’s Group Hug Apparel – Be Strong Rock On designs. How cool is this!
Your fun pass Includes: Unlimited 18 Hole indoor Mini Golf, Kiddie Rides, Bumper Cars, Inflatables, Mini Himalaya, Tea Cup Ride and Petting Farm Admission. Valued up to $17.99 + tax.

Please feel free to visit Andrew at any of his events or contact us to make arrangements to purchase a shirt and receive your FREE fun pass today. Limited quantities available so don’t miss out on this amazing offer. Thank you Colasanti’s for partnering with us on this amazing offer.


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Summer Sale & Fundraiser

It’s that time of year again for our SUMMER SALE!! Yes that’s right, it’s time to clear out some of our stock to make room for our fall inventory. So Andrew has some really awesome specials happening for 2 days only.

His Summer Sale is on July 27th 11 am – 6 pm & 28th 11 am – 4 pm

IN STORE ONLY – But not to worry if you do not live in our area and would like to get in on some of the deals please send us an email  ([email protected]) to discuss further. We would be happy to ship in stock items out to you. For out of the area customers, please note that the sale ends on July 28th at 4 pm and standard shipping costs apply.

This is what he is planning:

~ BOGO on all regular priced Group Hug Apparel t-shirts
(Buy One Get a Second t-shirt at 50% off) Regular prices $20 & $25
~ An amazing $10 Clearance Section (in store only)
~ Tote Bags (pale pink only) regular price $15 on sale for $10
~ Youth Sweaters Regular Price $25 on sale for $15
~ Adult Long Sleeved Shirts Regular Price $25 & $30 on sale for $15
~ Youth Long Sleeved shirts Regular Price $22 on sale for $15

Check out how adorable Vincie Greco is wearing one of the youth long sleeved “big Head” shirts that will be on sale.

Proceeds from our sale will support Andrew’s ongoing “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time” campaign. Bear In A Bag – Back Packs


Andrew is also hosting a Lemonade & bakes sale on both dates (mentioned above) with some of his friends. That’s right his cool Group Hug Apparel designs AND ice cold lemonade with home made baked goods YUM YUM

Andrew has many not for profit activities that he started like cooking classes, Hip Hop dance classes and this fall he is starting a water art classes (aqua fit). All of these activities benefit people with intellectual disabilities in our community.
Proceeds from his Lemonade & Bake Sale will be supporting these ongoing activities. Isn’t that the coolest! 2 Awesome events, supporting 2 amazing causes.

We hope to see you there!

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My friend Tom Schinkelshoek

My mom say’s that it’s important to be kind to others. And always appreciate who is in your life.

I met Tom when I worked with the Kingsville Kings Hockey team. He said to me, “Andrew can you help the team with the water bottles and with the pucks please. I said to him of course i can, I would love to be part of the team. I enjoyed going to the arena for Sunday home games and giving Tom a big bear hug when he was around. He was my friend and is missed a lot.

Tom and his wife Ms Kay invited me and my mom to speak at their church in Cottom. I shared my story about my life with everyone. I sold my shirts and had cookies and coffee. Tom donated some money to me so I could help fill some back Packs for sick children. I put teddy bears, toys and my shirt designs in them to help kids feel better. This really makes me happy to help others.

When I was on vacation in Florida with my mom and grandma, my friend Tom passed away. I was not able to go to the funeral. So I prayed for his wife Ms Kay and her beloved husband Tom. Ms Kay said to my mom that Tom loved me and loved how I help sick children from my shirt sales. At Tom’s funeral, donations were made to my business so i could help lots of children who are sick. This made me very happy. Me and my mom filled all of these back packs to give to the sick children. They are in honour of my friend Tom.

Love you and miss you,
RIP ~ October 24th, 1942 ~ April 26th, 2018


My mom shared some pictures.

This is me and Tom at my annual Rock Your Socks Fundraiser

This is me, Tom, Ms Kay and all my friends at our Down syndrome awareness day.

This is me at my job for the Kingsville Kings

This is me and Ms Kay with all the back packs going to children who are sick.

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Andrew’s 6th Blog Post – vacation

I am have fun on my vacation.

I went bowling and mini putt putt with my mom on rainy days. I won and she lost. She’s a good mom and not a bad loser at all. The mini golf was glow in the dark. My mom lost her ball. It did not glow lol

I saw turtles, funny frogs and lizards and even bobcats. I see the turtle every time we go to my grandmas. He is old, maybe a hundred years old. Always remember to be kind to the animals. We need to help take care of them.

We went to church and prayed to God. It’s important to me. I love to spend time doing this with my mom and grandma.

I helped cook dinner sometimes. I made chicken and turkey hot dogs. They were really good. I like to help even if it’s just eating it all lol

I went swimming a lot in my grandma’s pool. I played basket ball in the pool and floated on the floaty. I showed my mom how to do my water exercises. I learned them at water art classes every week in Leamington. Ms Debbie takes me and does them with me there.

We had a pizza and wing party with Jim and Joy and Pat and Steve. He drives his wife Pat around so I call him Uber Steve. Bob and Sue were there and my Grandma and mom and me. Pearl stayed in jail. She is my grandmas dog. It was her grate and not jail. I’m kidding. lol. She barks a lot. These are the some neighbours.

I went to a baseball game. I got to throw the first pitch. I was so excited to do this. My grandmas friends Ray and Bambi surprised me with setting this up for a surprise. Me and my mom were really happy. I did a good job throwing the first pitch. Everyone cheered and clapped. Pat and Uber Steve took us to the game and we had a great time. I received a baseball signed by the entire team. This was cool. Thank you so much for doing this for me.

I had a great time on my vacation. I hope you liked my post.


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Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Wow, what a wonderful surprise it was when Andrew was invited to throw out the very first pitch during the Charlotte Stone Crabs vs Lakeland Flying Tigers Baseball game at Charlotte Sports Park.

I think that our friends Steve and Patsy Armstrong who so graciously brought us to the game were as excited as he was.

He was also amazed when he heard his name being called over the loud speaker…… Andrew Banar, please report to the home field dug out to prepare yourself for the pitchers mound. (Well, his name was called over the loud speaker to report to the dug out) 😉 He was on cloud 9.

Thank you to Jared Forma the General Manager & Ray Rossi for making this happen and thank you to David Olmedo-Barrera for this awesome picture of you and Andrew.

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We Rock’d Our Socks – Super Hero Style

What a fabulous night we had at Andrew’s 4th Annual Rock Your Socks “Super Hero Style” fundraiser Friday evening. Wow, wow, wow!

Thank you to everyone who attended, sponsored, baked and donated to this fabulous event for Andrew’s ongoing “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time” campaign. With your generosity and support together you helped us raise $8,500.00 Friday evening AND with a to date total of just over $31,000 from our annual event AND a grand total of over $90,000 that Andrew has been able to donate to local children’s charities and his “Helping Sick Children One Shirt At A Time”.

Thank you to our committee Tara Hickmott Brown, Suzanne Bonneau Brogan, Colleen Mackenzie Sandra Baumann-Stein Liz Baumann, Chantalle Thibodeau MacDonald, Debbie Bennett, Bianca Mouradian, Nancy Hickmott for helping to make our event run so smoothly. Tara, for your endless hours of help and for our friendship. Thank you to our photographer MacKenzie Mallen and Eric from Eyes On Windsor. The pictures turned out fabulous (we will post them soon). Thank you Bianca Mouradian for your our fantastic photo booth area and to LouLou for being our on the spot face painter.
Thank you to Toni from the Mix 96.7 for being our emcee for the evening and to
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you!

Love always,

Andrew & Karen (Andrew’s mom)

Please feel free to share our post and Andrew’s love with others.

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Kindness Is Never Far Away

Never underestimate the power of kindness, its’ always around the corner.

World Down syndrome Awareness Day is March 21st, and this is the day that we come together to celebrate people with Down syndrome, their abilities and their accomplishments. We do this by wearing our wildest and funkiest socks by showing that it’s ok to be different.
We were honoured to be part of this day in so many ways, not just because Andrew was born with Down syndrome….that’s a given, but because so many of you joined us around the world and in our communities. Andrew and I were invited to speak and share our journey at many schools this year. Andrew talked about his dreams, goals and achievements. He also shared that just because he was born with Down syndrome that it doesn’t stop him from living a wonderful life.

Talbot Trail Elementary was one of the many amazing schools that we spoke with, and just recently Andrew was honoured to receive a wonderful donation from their March 21st, WDSD celebration. Students held a Toonie Drive and rocked their socks in support.
Thank you for all of your wonderful support, enthusiasm and love. Your kindness will support many of Andrews not for profit programs within our community for people with intellectual disabilities.

~ With Love

Shown here are Kathy Henry’s grade 5 students presenting Andrew wth a donation, Birthday cards and so much love.

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