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Mother's campaign aids those with special needs

  • Friday, August 15, 2014

Contributed photo Publix manager Jim Bongalis stands alongside R.J. Kendall, who is sitting in the new special-needs shopping cart Kendall's mother, Theresa, helped obtain for the store on St. James Boulevard.

Theresa Kendall is keenly aware of the challenges presented to parents of special-needs children.

Kendall is the mother of R.J., who has autism and cognitive impairments. He gets around with the help of walking devices and a wheelchair. Simple tasks — most take for granted — become huge undertakings.

Her experiences while grocery shopping with R.J., who turns 8 later this month, were difficult, to say the least. She would push R.J. in his wheelchair while pulling a cart behind her, all the time making sure he didn’t grab items off shelves or reach for other people’s buggies as they passed by.

“I was in desperate need to see if there was anything available to be able to grocery shop with my son,” she said.

Her desperation prompted her to do some research on the Internet. That’s where she discovered a site called Caroline’s Cart, created by another special-needs mother, Drew Ann Long, who helped develop and market a specially designed cart that allows caregivers to secure a child or adult while shopping.

“I started in January of last year on this mission,” Kendall said. “I got in touch with Mrs. Long and she helped me get the process going.”

With the help of Jim Bongalis, manager of the Goose Creek Publix store on St. James Boulevard, and Publix corporate official Jonathan Stiles, Kendall was able to get one of Caroline’s Carts at the store.

“I approached them about the need for this type of cart,” Kendall said. “They told me I’d have to show a need for it, so I started a campaign. I asked other families to share their own experiences or what they had observed while shopping at Publix.”

Those testimonials convinced Publix officials, and the new cart was delivered in July.

“This cart means so much to me and other special-needs caregivers,” Kendall said. “Grocery shopping might seem like a simple trip for most people, but to others it’s not.

“I really want to thank Publix for going above and beyond for their customers’ needs.”

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