New cart at Busch's aids families with special needs children

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Sophie Stegg, 2, joins her mom, Ashley, for shopping at Busch's using a specially equipped grocery cart. Looking on is store manager Keith Belanger. Busch's purchased a “Caroline's Cart” to help make shopping easier for people with special needs children. Busch's is the fourth store in Michigan to offer a Caroline's Cart. Photo by Deb Wuethrich.

Parents of special needs children often spend a good deal of their time looking for alternate ways to do things that may seem simple for other families. For Ashley Stegg, who is a customer service representative at The Hamblin Company in Tecumseh, even going to the grocery store could be a challenge as she and her husband, Dan, look after their daughter Sophie, who is two years old.

“Sophie has Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, and she can't really sit up by herself in a regular grocery cart,” said Ashley. “She's usually leaning or needs to be propped.”

Mowat-Wilson Syndrome is a genetic condition that includes delayed development of motor skills such as sitting, standing, or walking. At two, Sophie does not yet have a wheelchair, as insurance doesn't cover one until a child is at least three years old her mother said.

“My husband and I work opposite shifts so one of us is always with her,” Ashley said. Dan works at the Lenawee Stamping plant, and the couple strives for as normal a life as possible for Sophie and their son Shane, 13. But it's not always easy.

One day, one of Ashley's friends who also has a special needs child told her about a grocery cart that a store in Northville had available.

“I got on Facebook and came across the Caroline's Cart page,” said Ashley. Caroline's Cart was designed by Drew Ann and David Long, an Alabama couple, who realized the difficulty of grocery shopping early on after their daughter, Caroline, grew bigger and could no longer fit in a standard cart. The couple has made it their mission to spread the word about the availability of the carts, which cost approximately $850 each.

Ashley contacted Busch's corporate office a few months ago and described the special cart, asking if the Tecumseh store might consider purchasing one, not just to help her, but other families in the area.

“Sophie is still small, but there are others out there who may have mobility or sensory issues who could benefit from this cart, and no one should have to get a sitter just to go grocery shopping,” Ashley said. Being out in the community is also important to Sophie and other children.

Keith Belanger, Manager for Busch's Tecumseh store, said he was contacted by Steve Lyons from the corporate office after Ashley sent information.

“We thought it would be a good idea to put some of these carts in our stores,” Belanger said. “Busch's has always been about the guests and trying to make life and shopping easier and more convenient for the guests.” Busch's is only the fourth store in Michigan to have one.

The carts provide a safe alternative, Ashley said, pointing out the five-point harness system. There is a brake on the base of the cart to steady it while the passenger is being seated and secured. Ashley demonstrated how Sophie sits facing her so they are in direct contact throughout the shopping experience. She said it drives like any other grocery cart and is not cumbersome.

The cart, when not in use, is in the corner of the shopping cart area, near those that feature child-car attachments, and will hold up to 250 pounds.

“Busch's was so cooperative and easy to work with,” said Ashley, who added that she is grateful to get the cooperation from Busch's in obtaining one of the carts.

“My goal is to get the word out that the cart is here so others can benefit,” she said. “If we can help other families and let them know what resources are available, then Sophie will be making a difference in other people's lives.”




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