CARTS WITH CARE: Shopping option benefits special needs children
Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017
LAPLACE — When Pam Brady’s daughter Penny was born with Rett Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder, life instantly became more challenging.
The LaPlace hairdresser and mom of three said she has had to learn new ways to do many things, including the most simple tasks with her daughter, now 4.
Among the most difficult, she said, is grocery shopping.
“It’s impossible to push a wheelchair and a buggy at the same time,” Brady said. “I would have to wait to go shopping until I could leave her home with my husband.”
Several years ago, another mom of a special needs child recognized the problem and formed Parent Solution Group, which created a special shopping cart designed to allow a non-mobile child to ride in a shopping cart.
It has a rear-facing extra large booster-type seat that can accommodate up to a small adult. Drew Ann Long named it “Caroline’s Cart.”
While the carts solve some problems for parents of special needs children, they are very expensive and that makes them hard to find. Only the Metairie Target has one, Brady said — until now.
One day Brady was shopping and timidly approached a manager at the LaPlace Winn Dixie and asked if he could possibly get one for the store.
Much to Brady’s surprise, manager L.J. Boudouin said yes.
“I was really nervous about approaching him,” Brady said. “I saw him in the back one day and he kind of looked like he wasn’t super-busy. So I asked him if that was something they could get for us. I said, ‘I don’t know the cost. I don’t know anything about it. I just know that people are requesting them and there’s not one in our area yet.’”
Boudouin replied that he thought he already had ordered one and, if he hadn’t, he would order one the next day.
“He put in the order immediately,” Brady said. “He said, ‘If it’s not in the next shipment, I will make sure it’s on the next shipment for sure.’”
Boudouin, who has worked for Winn Dixie for 37 years, said he is happy to help take care of his customers.
“They’ve been shopping here for a long time,” Boudouin said. “If someone asks for something, we try to get it. I just had to call our district manager and ask for it.”
Brady was even more overjoyed when the cart arrived within a week, making her life and her daughter’s life just a little bit easier.
“That makes me feel great, to know that I helped them like that,” Boudouin said.
Brady isn’t the only one to benefit from the cart. Angie Pilgreen, whose 2 1/2 –year-old son Kyle was born with a condition that caused his brain not to form properly, also was overjoyed.
“My friend Pam told me about it,” she said. “I usually shop at the (Winn Dixie) in Lutcher because I live in Garyville. Since she told me about the cart in LaPlace, I started going to the one in LaPlace. It’s definitely helping me out.”
The cart, currently the only one in the LaPlace area, is kept in a storeroom until customers request it.
“That’s another issue,” Pilgreen said. “You have to go ask for it because they don’t want it to get stolen. When they see us coming, they usually go get it for us.”
Still, it has made the lives of Kyle and Penny — and their moms — just a little easier.
Brady said they were thrilled with the response they got from the local Winn Dixie. Not all businesses are so eager to help and those stories get told in various support groups.
“Most of the time we get told, ‘Oh, it’s not in our budget,’” Brady said. “A lot of the parents had to print out all of these documents and had to get petitions and actually show a need for them. All I did was ask him, and it’s done. It made me feel valued. It’s definitely making my life easier.”