Turlock’s Save Mart hosted a ribbon cutting event Friday for the purchase of a new special needs cart to help ease the difficulty of grocery shopping with children who have special needs.
The cart features a built-in seat sturdy enough to support a child who normally uses a wheelchair, providing parents and caregivers the opportunity to transport a child through the store without having to manage a wheelchair and shopping cart. Its seat straps in the child so that they can face their parent while they shop.
Carolina Alfaro, a resident of Turlock, was behind the push in bringing the special needs cart to Turlock. She reached out to Save Mart in May to ask if a cart could potentially come to the Geer location. Her husband, Jose Alfaro, supported her in the process, as the cause was one very near to their family.
The Alfaros had two sons, Adrian and Diego, that each passed away from complications due to Zellweger Syndrome. Because of the Alfaros’ experience with the syndrome, a peroxisomal disorder, the family knew all too well the struggle of taking a special needs child who uses a wheelchair to the store.
As Carolina Alfaro explained, it was too difficult to manage her son’s wheelchair as well as a cart. She would end up balancing a shopping basket on her arm while pushing her son, or even placing items on the wheelchair where she could fit them.
But the process was taxing, and most of the time, Carolina had to wait until Jose was home to watch the children so that she could make a late night run to the grocery store. Two families present at the ribbon cutting, the Smiths and the Blairs, echoed similar stories.
Late night runs to the store are common, as it’s easier to wait until family members are free to split their duties as caregiver and shopper.
But in May, Carolina Alfaro saw an exciting new option she had never heard of before — a cart specifically made to carry special needs children, while allowing plenty of space to carry the grocery items in the large basket as well as the shelf underneath. Carolina decided to contact Save Mart about buying one for the special needs children of Turlock, in memory of her own two sons.
The cart is known as Caroline’s Cart, named after Caroline, the special needs daughter of Drew Ann and David Long. Drew Ann saw the need for a special needs cart after realizing her daughter would outgrow a typical shopping cart and so moved forward with its creation.
The Save Mart located at 3601 Pelandale Ave. and Trader Joe’s located at 3250 Dale Rd., both in Modesto, also received Caroline’s Cart recently, meaning there are three locations with special needs carts available in the Central Valley. According to Alfaro, the nearest one after that is located at a Whole Foods in San Francisco.
At around $850, the carts are about eight times the cost of regular shopping carts, and they require a little more care. The Caroline’s Carts will be cleaned by hand daily, whereas regular shopping carts are run through a machine that washes them.
But after looking at the smiles on the faces of Katie Blair, age seven, and Hayven Smith, age six, both cerebral palsy patients, it seems the the cost is worth it. And the families seemed relieved to have an option besides the wheelchair/hand basket maneuver.
The Smiths live in Oakdale, so mom, Cody, said that the Turlock Save Mart isn’t their usual store, but having the Caroline’s Cart at the Geer location is definitely a draw.
“As parents, nothing’s impossible for us,” said Carolina. “This is exciting. I want to make sure that we create awareness in our community on how important this day really is and how special this Caroline’s Cart is.”