Andrew Banar’s Retro Rock Your Socks Attracts Some Cool Cats

Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks “50’s Style” fundraiser filled Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens Friday night (March 29) with an atmosphere of pure whimsy. Despite some 70 years passing since blue jeans with rolled up cuffs were fashionable, the place was filled with men and women wearing the jeans. One of the best dressed girls in the room, Brittany Taylor, very pretty in pink with her poodle skirt, tells Eyes on Windsor she likes the 50s because they seemed to be a lot of fun.

Brittany Taylor

Brittany Taylor wearing a pretty in pink poodle dress during Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks 50’s Style fundraiser at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

For Bob and Diane Allan, it was a time for Bob to pull on some slick hair, if only to honour the era’s singing sensation Elvis Presley and have a darn good time. But the most impressive person in the whole room, without exception, was Andrew Banar.

Bob Allen

Bob Allan styled his hair to fit in with the theme of Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks “50’s Style” fundraiser at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

The young St. Clair College graduate works the room with a certain finesse politicians would envy. In particular his trademarked hugs are doled out unreservedly to those he knows, and it seems he knows every one of the hundreds who gathered at Kingsville’s premier family entertainment centre, Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, for Group Hug Apparel’s 5th Annual Dinner Fundraiser.

Hundreds of guests attend Group Hug Apparel's 5th Annual Rock Your Socks fundraiser

Hundreds of guests attended Group Hug Apparel’s 5th Annual Rock Your Socks fundraiser dinner at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Group Hug is no ordinary company. It was founded by Banar and for good reason. Although you’d never know it from his unstoppable energy, his Down Syndrome has given him certain medical conditions that have required hospitalization and hospital visits. On one of his hospital stays he noticed families with children sent to the hospital unexpectedly often arrive ill-prepared. Small things have been forgotten, like toiletries, supplies, diapers, food and even money for parking.

Organizers of Group Hug Apparel's Rock Your Socks

Organizers of Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks Fundraiser, Karen Pickle, and Andrew Banar with guests Ashley Colasanti (top left), and Rowan Furtado (bottom left) at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo courtesy of Ashley Colasanti.

With his apparel company, the young entrepreneur has already donated over $90,000 to Windsor Regional Hospital, W.E. Care for Kids, Ronald McDonald House and many others. The success of the fundraiser will allow him to give more so families will have less worry about those little things. Andrew calls what has become a much-valued and appreciated campaign, Helping Sick Kids One T-Shirt At A Time all under the banner of “Be Strong Rock On,” his personal motto emblazoned on his products.

Group Hug Apparel T-Shirts

Group Hug Apparel T-Shirts designed by Andrew Banar featuring his personal philosophy, “Be Strong Rock On,” on display during his annual Rock Your Socks fundraiser dinner at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

In the evening’s program, Melissa McCoy crystallized the inherent value of Andrew’s company and his charitable work. She writes about the “incredibly isolating experience” facing an ill-child in hospital. “We are so grateful,” she says, “to Andrew reaching out to our family during Ivy’s treatment, sending us handwritten notes, shirts, and toys to help brighten our day.”

Anrew Baner and Suzanne Brogan

Andrew Baner draws a raffle ticket while Suzanne Brogan waits to announce the winner during Group Hug Apparel’s 5th Annual Rock Your Socks fundraiser dinner at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Yes, Banar is personally involved in all aspects of his apparel company and with the many families he is helping. Not only will he write personal notes, he also makes hospital visits. But, his story of community service doesn’t stop there. He has just accepted a four-year term to sit on the Kingsville Town Council’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Kara Almasi

Kara Almasi volunteering at Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks fundraiser dinner at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

It is a busy schedule. But, no matter what, he is committed to continuing his good deeds and all those in attendance were not so much happy to see his success, they were proud.

For more about Andrew Banar and his company visit http://grouphugapparel.com

Vinny Andrade

Volunteer Vinny Andrade selling 50/50 draw tickets at Group Hug Apparel’s Rock Your Socks fundraiser at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville, Ontario, on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Chantelle MacDonald Volunteering at Group Hug Apparel's Rock Your Socks Fundraiser

Chantalle MacDonald, volunteering and selling baked goods at Group Hug Apparel’s 5th Annual Rock Your Socks Pasta Dinner Fundraiser at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens on March 29, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.