Tennessee mothers plead for Caroline's Carts in public places

Posted at 6:23 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 07:53:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee mothers are tirelessly pleading for Caroline's Carts to be put in grocery stores in more counties across the state.

Caroline's Carts were started in 2008 by a mother in Alabama whose daughter has disabilities.

"A Caroline’s Cart is a special adaptive cart that we use in grocery stores like Publix that allows our children with special needs or adults even they can sit facing you and it still has a basket on the other side enables you to go through the grocery store and get what you need and still have your child right there where they can see everything that's going on," explained Tennessee mother Jennifer Schultz.

Schultz said she chooses which stores she will frequent based on whether or not they have a Caroline's Cart so she can shop with her son Hatcher who is non-verbal.

"It makes it very hard for me to go into them [stores]. And I have asked store managers because that's usually where you start is on the local level," explained Schultz. "Some grocery stores and large retailers are happy to get them but, they are a little bit expensive. But then there's some that tell us we have to get to the corporate level and I've reached out and just getting pushed back."

Schultz said she has been asking the store manager at Aldi in Franklin, Tennessee, for over a year for a Caroline's Cart to no avail.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to both Aldi and Kroger to find out what their policy on Caroline's Carts is and never heard back.

Caroline's Carts are retrofitted with a backwards facing seat and movable handle bars so teens and adults with special needs can get into the chair and face their caregiver as to make sure they can see their caregiver at all times.

A mother in Ripley, Tennessee, said she often drives 30 minutes to an hour to get to a store with a Caroline's Cart so she can shop with her daughter.

"Although she can walk, she gets tired and overstimulated quickly and needs to take frequent breaks when we are shopping. When she became a teenager, when at places like Walmart, I had to help her climb into a regular shopping cart and then lift her out of it on my back when we were done, and still do now that she's an adult," explained Heather Bensch. "Since I have to pay attention to her and tend to her needs while I am in the store, I end up having to put my groceries in her lap as we shop until we check out, because it isn't possible to push two carts at once. Not only is this an inconvenient situation for both of us, but it is also an undignified one for her, which usually ends up making her anxious."

Bensch said she has spent months pleading with her local Kroger for a Caroline's Cart.

Sarah Clinton lives in Nashville said although some of the stores she goes to have them, there is only one per store.

"Many stores still do not carry them, and those that do only have one. We always worry that we are taking the cart away from a family facing even greater challenges and needs (e.g., a friend uses the cart to shop with her mom with ALS)," explained Clinton.

Another challenge? Mothers told NewsChannel 5 that even when a store has a cart, the employees in stores often do not know what a Caroline's Cart is, creating yet another barrier to just shopping for groceries.

"There's been times that I'm like, 'Do you know where the Caroline's Cart is?' And they're like, 'I'm not sure what that is.'" recalled Schultz. "It's kind of, you know, difficult if they don't know what they are saying—just educating people on what it is I want it for."

Jennifer Schultz and her son Hatcher Ryan choose where they shop based on which stores have Caroline's Carts.

The mothers explained not only does it guarantee their business, but it also helps minimize the number of meltdowns in stores.

"If a child has severe behavioral problems, and they have a meltdown in the middle of the store because they're walking. With this, they’re actually in the cart, and you're moving through and they're moving and so they're more distracted too," explained Schultz.

By speaking out the mothers hope to see more businesses taking the initiative to order Caroline's Carts so they do not have to keep begging store managers to do so.

"For every store to have them, especially major retailers, it's a game changer," Schultz explained. "It's just going to get the money in the long run because people are shopping there that can use them."

To look for a Caroline's Cart in your area, visit this list.