He doesn’t wear a cape. He hasn’t rescued any damsels in distress — but Andrew Banar is a hero.
And fittingly, the 20-year-old entrepreneur officially earned that designation on World Down Syndrome Day, Wednesday, March 21.
But he doesn’t see himself as a hero.
“I just try to do nice things,” he said.
While the Cardinal Carter student was born with Down Syndrome, he has not let it hold him back. In fact, he has probably accomplished more than many of his peers.
Like starting his own business. Or maybe donating more than $8,000 to local charities. Or even making plans for a post-secondary education.
And that is where his dream began.
For Andrew the dream of going to college motivated him to look beyond any limits that may have been placed on him.
And with the help of an extremely supportive mom, Karen Pickle, Andrew was able to combine his artistic talent with his love of drumming which led to Group Hug Apparel.
His apparel company, which features his own designs and the catch phrase ‘Rock On’, has earned thousands of dollars in just two years in business — probably enough to pay for Andrew’s college education.
But in a selfless decision, Andrew decided to share his earnings with more than 10 different local charities.
“It’s important to give back to the community,” said Andrew, “because everyone needs help — and I like to help people.”
And help them he has.
He spends virtually every weekend at community events — hocking his wares and mingling with members of the community.
Andrew has become a familiar face to many and now a hero — one that puts a face, and especially a smile, to the Down Syndrome Society of Canada.
He and nine others were chosen from hundreds of entries to be one of the society’s heroes.
According to the Canadian Down Syndrome website, the heroes were chosen “to showcase the abilities and accomplishments of persons with Down Syndrome and encourage independence, self-advocacy and freedom for persons with Down Syndrome to make their own choices.”
They are recognized as “strong community leaders who make a difference in the lives of people with Down Syndrome”, it continued.
Andrew epitomizes the society’s definition of a hero.
His mom beams with pride when speaking of her son and his accomplishments — especially his latest, hero status.
“When you have a child with a disability,” she said, “you want them to have the best life possible, without needing to worry about all of life’s challenges.”
“You help them fulfill dreams and goals by working around their abilities,” she added, “and if that means changing things up so they can accomplish them and be a part of society like everyone else — then that is part of my job as being a mom.”
In many ways though, Andrew is a typical young adult — he loves playing the drums, playing Rock Band, watching movies, hanging out with family and friends and heading south for a little vacation.
“He is caring, thoughtful and has a spirit that I wish everyone in the world could see,” she said.
Thanks to his ambitious aspirations — many have already had that pleasure.
“He is my daily inspiration,” she said, “and keeps me focused.”