Advocating for All

There’s a lot to tell about Caroline’s Cart. It’s made many families happy. (If you don’t believe us, check out their Facebook page.)

So, how did Community Living find out about this cart? A Facebook post from one of our friends. Isn’t social media great! Sure, it can have its down side, but you can find a lot of positive posts and this is one of them:

“… Recently the Schnucks store at Hwy K and Hwy N was so amazing and purchased a Caroline’s Cart. We have used it quite a few times and I absolutely love it. It’s the first time I’ve been able to shop with my daughter, alone, in 7 years. Yesterday, we ran into quite a few families who had use for this cart, but no idea it was available. I’d like to try and reach as many people in our community as possible and wanted to make you aware in hopes you’ll spread the word,” Kelly Layton.

When Kelly was contacted to do a story for Community Living’s monthly newsletter, she was thrilled. She then started talking about her daughter, Sydney, who started in the Social Opportunities and Recreation (SOAR) program in August. Sydney, who also just started middle school at Hollenbeck, uses a wheelchair and loves to go shopping.

Once Sydney turned 5, the traditional shopping cart was too small for her. Shopping was difficult because Kelly would have to push a cart and a wheelchair. Of course there were times that Kelly’s husband would come along, but as Kelly said, “the girls love to shop.” On many occasions, Sydney would stay home while Kelly went shopping.

And, then two words changed the way Kelly and Sydney would shop together again – Caroline’s Cart. The shopping cart, designed by Drew Ann Long, mother to a daughter with a disability, provides a viable option to transport a child or adult through a store, without having the impossible task of having to maneuver a wheelchair and traditional shopping cart. “It’s given Sydney a lot of independence and excitement,” Kelly said. “She’s super comfortable and she is now a part of the experience instead of having to stay at home.”

When Kelly heard about the cart, she contacted her local Schnucks. She educated the manager about the cart and asked if they could purchase it. She was surprised at how easy it was. “When you have a child with special needs, you fight for everything – services, insurance, care, schools,” Kelly said. “We are programmed to fight because everything seems like a battle sometimes. Sometimes it’s just nice to call and hear, ‘we will be happy to look into that for you.’”

Look into it they did! Kelly and Sydney went grocery shopping for the first time in over 7 years, because Schnucks purchased the Caroline’s Cart. She posted a photo of Sydney using the cart on Instagram. It was from this post she received a lot of comments from users of Target carts.

So, she decided to call her local Target store and ask if they would purchase the cart, too. “When Kelly called and asked to speak with me about the cart, I told her I would look into it and get back with her,” Bethany Tipps, Target store manager at Dardenne Prairie, said. “What you don’t know, you just don’t know. I never heard of (the cart) and once Kelly started educating me on it I was thinking this would be awesome for her family and the community.”

When Bethany got on Target’s ordering system, she saw the Caroline’s Cart as an option and she immediately ordered it. “I was shocked when Bethany emailed me to tell me it has been ordered,” Kelly said.

The cart is located at the front of the store so it is visible for all guests to see and use. Another family saw the cart at Target and posted a Facebook post to thank Target. The post went viral after it has been shared by more than 13,500 people. Bethany saw the post and realized it was her Target store. She shared the post with her boss. “We chatted about how cool it was that that’s not even the family the cart was ordered for,” Bethany said. “It just proves how much it is needed. It was so heartwarming to me.” Her boss sent a message to all the managers in their district and asked that they order one. (The district includes Target stores in St. Charles, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Wentzville and stores in Illinois.)

Bethany emailed Kelly to tell her about the post. “I just told her that’s because of you,” Bethany said. “Kelly took the time to call me, all I did was order a cart but she changed another family’s shopping experience. She is solely responsible for doing that. That went viral because she made that family’s day.”

Kelly loves hearing how the cart is being used by other families. And, it’s not just being used by families with children with disabilities — a daughter uses it for her mother who can’t walk. “I think it’s amazing,” Kelly said. “It’s not just limited to children – there are adults that utilize it too. There are so many uses and places for a cart like this. Just having this cart and giving other families the independence and ability to go out with their family is rewarding.”

The reward has been just as great for Sydney and Kelly. This year, Sydney was able to pick out a Christmas present for her brother, Quinn, 5. “This is her first year to be able to do that,” Kelly said.

Both stores, Schnucks and Target, have a call-ahead car delivery procedure. Once Kelly is parked, Kelly will call the store and a store employee will bring the cart to her car.

If you have a favorite place to shop and think this cart would be convenient for your family, Kelly’s advice is simple, “All you have to do is ask. Schnucks and Target have been so gracious about ordering the Caroline’s Cart. Just call and ask. It’s usually received with a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ or ‘Yes, of course we will get one.’”

Click here to find out if your store has a Caroline’s Cart. For more information on Caroline’s Cart, go to www.carolinescart.com.