What’s your story?
I have a business degree from LSU, am married, and have three children. My oldest, Mary Grace, is starting her second year at Auburn University, Caroline is sixteen and in high school, my youngest Matthew is starting seventh grade. I work daily on Caroline’s Cart, and also am designing more products to help others with special needs. I recently started a non-profit, published a book, and travel to speak at various events, so I stay very busy!
How did the idea for Caroline’s Cart come about? Where can we find your carts?
Caroline’s Cart (“CC”) was born out of a need for my daughter Caroline. We design patented shopping carts for older children and adults with special needs. As a parent of any special needs child will tell you, simple, daily tasks quickly become far more challenging. A large part of my challenge everyday was grocery shopping. As my special needs daughter outgrew typical shopping carts, I realized there was a huge gap in accessibility and inclusion in retail stores. With an over-accommodating industry that is always looking for ways to make the shopping experience easier and family friendly, I knew a special needs shopping cart could no longer be overlooked so we designed patented shopping carts for older children and adults with special needs.
My mission is that one day all retailers will provide an equal opportunity shopping experience for parents and caregivers of special needs children by furnishing them the option of Caroline’s Cart. I’ve lobbied twice in Washington D.C. about CC with key politicians; I’ve presented to the National Council on Disability and the United States Access Board; and I’ve also met with Michelle Obama to demonstrate CC and how it can provide access for the millions of families who need it.
We’ve been fortunate enough to win several awards including the 2013 DaVinci award for Best Product in Mobility and were recently honored by the National Retail Federation as one of the top 25 companies shaping the future of retail in 2017.
What does the future look like at CC?
CC is growing daily! We have experienced over 700% growth since 2013.
What is one thing that’s been discouraging about your journey caring for Caroline? What’s something that has given you hope?
Early on was definitely the hardest time for me. Learning how to care for her and manage every aspect of her diagnosis, it felt like everyday there was something new. I grieved for her, I was scared for the future… but over time it all became easier. My hope and strength comes from Jesus! Because of Him, I have a wonderful life and the blessing of CC. It hasn’t always been easy, but God is good.
What is an everyday, conventional, lifestyle brand or product you use for Caroline that makes both her and your life easier?
I love her Special Tomato seat. It’s great to get her out of her wheelchair into something more comfortable. She uses it everyday. I also love her rodeo stroller. It folds up for easy travel and less bulky that the wheelchair.
What advice would you give to other parents or caregivers with needs like your daughter, Caroline?
Take on one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Join social media groups that have children with similar situations – this can be a great support group. Take care of yourself, too!
– Drew Long, Springible Contributor