I cried at Gerbes today: A thank-you from a Special Needs mom.

This is my daughter, Katherine (or Rin as we call her.)

Cute, right?
Cute, right?

Katherine was born with several disabilities and special medical needs. She will be turning three in less than a month, and she still cannot stand, speak or walk.  While she has some vision, she is considered legally blind and her vision cannot be corrected with surgery or glasses. Additionally, she has cognitive and social delays.

I say all these things to provide you some background, so you understand why this means so much to me. You see, grocery shopping has always been difficult for Rin. The loud noises in public places are amplified by her lack of vision. She is terrified of strange customers attempting to touch her (because hey, she can barely see them). The bright lights hurt her eyes. The carts are uncomfortable for her to ride in because she lacks the core strength required to sit up properly, and yet she is too big to hold while I push about the shopping cart.

My husband works two jobs and is getting his Master’s right now. So leaving her home with him while I shop is not a viable option. Rather than shell out money we don’t have for a sitter, we were determined to try and de-sensitize Rin to the grocery shopping experience as best as we could. So far, we’ve been successful. Rin went from screaming and self-injuring herself during every single shopping trip to calmly sitting in the cart while I pick up the groceries our family needs. It’s been a painstaking process with a lot of upsetting days, but we’ve done it. Rin can finally stomach the grocery store without incident.

In fact, it’s become such a part of our weekly routine that she fully enjoys grocery store trips now. It’s almost her favorite thing to do.

Rin at Gerbes recently.
Rin at Gerbes recently.

But there’s one problem that’s been looming over my head recently; Rin is getting too big for the cart seat. With her long legs, she’s nearly too tall to safely maneuver in and out of most legholes in carts. As she’s gotten bigger and bigger I’ve started dreading grocery stores because I knew one day I was going to walk in and find that she just didn’t fit in the seat anymore. Then what?

I asked other moms of kids with Special Needs, but just couldn’t come up with a solution that worked well enough for Rin to continue shopping with me. I know it seems like a silly thing to get upset over, but I was really frustrated. All that work de-sensitizing her to grocery shopping was about to be flushed down the drain. She wasn’t going to get to go anymore.

Well, I walked into a Gerbes today and realized that our problem had been solved. As I was grabbing a cart, I noticed an unusual-looking cart that I had never seen before.

A "Caroline's Cart" style shopping cart.
A “Caroline’s Cart” style shopping cart.

This is a shopping cart designed for children over 30lbs that have special needs. And the first of it’s kind that I’ve ever seen. Gerbes has this style of cart at it’s Broadway location here in Columbia.

From the side.
From the side.

Seriously, this made my year. Gerbes has purchased a shopping cart that will make grocery shopping more accessible for those with special needs and their caregivers.

Because you were the first in my community to get one of these carts, you have a customer for life. I teared up thinking about how happy Rin was going to be riding in one of these while we completed our shopping each week. She’s going to love it!

Thanks Gerbes, and thanks to the designers of Caroline’s Cart to helping families everywhere feel included in their community.

-Rachelle Cox

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