‘It’s a life-changing resource for families like ours’

Maple Grove Cub tests out carts for special needs children

A Maple Grove business has made the shopping experience just a little bit easier for some parents and a little bit more fun for children with special needs. A unique shopping cart designed to transport a special needs child throughout a store while the parent shops.

Maple Grove resident Lisa Jamieson is able to take her daughter Carly shopping at the Cub Foods in Maple Grove without any extra help. The store has one Caroline’s Cart, which helps families of special needs individuals. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)
Maple Grove resident Lisa Jamieson is able to take her daughter Carly shopping at the Cub Foods in Maple Grove without any extra help. The store has one Caroline’s Cart, which helps families of special needs individuals. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)

Caroline’s Cart has been tested at the Maple Grove Cub Foods store for about the past eight months just after the remodel of the store, according to Luke Friedrich from Cub Foods. This is also the first retailer in Minnesota to offer this shopping cart to “improve the shopping experience for families with special needs children.”

Named after Caroline Long, the special needs daughter of Drew Ann and David Long, Caroline’s Cart shopping carts are equipped with front and back breaks and adjustable handles that move out of the way, allowing for parents to easily lift their child in and out of a wide, sturdy seat that’s set at an angle that is adjustable for children with low muscle tone. There is also a five-point harness on the seat. The carts combine the functionality of a wheelchair and traditional shopping cart, making the shopping experience much simpler and safer for special needs families. Drew Ann saw a need for the cart after realizing that her daughter would outgrow the child area in a typical shopping cart.

For families with special needs children, the cart eliminates the troubling task of navigating the aisles of their local grocery store while maneuvering a wheelchair and traditional shopping cart at the same time. The carts are for kids 48 months or older and those 35 to 250 pounds.

The Caroline’s Cart at the Cub Foods in Maple Grove allows families to shop with just a cart, without a need for a wheel chair or extra hands to help out. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)
The Caroline’s Cart at the Cub Foods in Maple Grove allows families to shop with just a cart, without a need for a wheel chair or extra hands to help out. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)

One Maple Grove family, the Jamieson’s, have been waiting for this special cart to come to the area. Larry and Lisa Jamieson have a 16-year-old daughter Carly who has Angelman syndrome. Carly is missing a gene on her 15th maternal chromosome. As a result, she has movement disorder, a lot of imbalance, seizures, cognitive delays and is non-verbal.

“I first heard about the carts three years ago,” Lisa said. “I began praying the cart would take off and was so grateful somebody was thinking about it. I was already in the challenging phases of how to shop with Carly and the limitations. I was very excited about the carts coming.”

She talked with the Long family and it was a seven-year process to get the cart developed.

Lisa found out the cart was in Maple Grove about month or so ago after Carly’s class went on an outing to learn about money skills. “She came home with her iPad story with pictures of the day and what she did since she is non-verbal,” she said. “There was a picture of her in the Caroline’s Cart at the Maple Grove Cub and I immediately freaked out and was very excited.”

She took Carly to Cub to grab a few groceries after Carly’s adaptive dance class and used the cart for the first time a little while later. “That was the first time I shopped alone with Carly in many years,” she said. “I either have to leave Carly at home and coordinate my shopping when someone can watch her or have extra hands with me.”

She added that was a relaxing shopping experience. Lisa feels the carts are also a great, social and emotional kind of support for families with special needs children.

“To think that cooperate America is seeing us, it means a lot,” she said. “It’s isolating when you can’t get out as much. Cub Foods is a difference maker. I applaud them because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lisa said Carly loves the cart. “Carly loves to ride anything,” she added. “She loves four-wheelers, golf carts, jet skis. The faster it goes the better.”

Lisa Jamieson and her daughter Carly enjoy a trip shopping at Cub Foods in Maple Grove with the aid of a Caroline’s Cart. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)
Lisa Jamieson and her daughter Carly enjoy a trip shopping at Cub Foods in Maple Grove with the aid of a Caroline’s Cart. (Sun staff photo by Alicia Miller)

Because of Carly’s Angelman syndrome, there is always a chance with her balance and endurance issues, that make Carly have some degree of a seizure while out shopping. Lisa said even though Carly can technically walk, this cart will allow them both to continue shopping without any issues.

“There is a real buzz for these carts,” Lisa said. “This is a big deal. It’s a life-changing resource for families like ours. To think that Target, Cub Foods in Maple Grove and beyond, more and more are embracing this type of thing is giving me a degree of flexibility and a peaceful shopping experience.”

As for Cub Foods, the team saw a need for carts.

“For us it was a great chance bring in the cart and get feedback,” Friedrich said of Caroline’s cart. “Once we heard about this and the Cub team looked into it, we felt this was a way we could take typical day-to-day shopping experience and hopefully make it a little more convenient.”

The cart can be found with other child seat carts. There is a sign by the cart that explains what it is and who it’s designed for.

“We been testing out the cart and it has been going really well,” Friedrich said. “Over the last several weeks, we have heard a lot more from people. The feedback has been very positive.”

He added he spoke with another woman that had recently used the cart and said it was the easiest shopping experience she has in months when shopping with her special needs child. “It’s really cool when you hear from a family about this making their lives easier, it’s worth more than selling groceries,” Friedrich said.

According to Friedrich, Cub Foods is looking to expand the Caroline’s Carts to other Cub stores in the area. The carts are also going to be appearing in four Target stores this spring — Coon Rapids, Woodbury, Stillwater and St. Paul’s University Avenue West store.

Lisa added she hopes people continue to spread the word about the carts. “My three hopes are to help get the word out as this a life-changing big deal,” she said. “I also want to ask other stores to embrace this, not just grocery stores. And to just thank the difference makers like Cub Foods in Maple Grove and Target for pioneering this and the Long family for really designing this.”