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Girl Scouts bring special-needs shopping carts to Sitka

By Heather Hintze 7:46 PM October 20, 2014

For those who have children with special needs, everything is a bit more challenging.

Recently, Sitka resident Jeff Bentley brought his daughter, Jema, along on a trip to the grocery store. The five-year-old has epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

“Jema, you want to sit in the cart?” Bentley asked her.

The father says even a trip to the grocery store is quite the ordeal. Jema can’t walk or talk and is required to use a feeding tube.

“It was shopping with the wheelchair and pulling the cart behind you and trying to corral the other two kids as well,” Bentley said of the tiring process that he used to go through at the store.

Thanks to Sitka’s Girl Scout Troop 4140, his family has a new way to get Jema around when they shop. The girls raised more than $3,000 to bring Caroline’s Carts to all three grocery stores in Sitka.

“We had a car wash,” said 12-year-old Allison Winger. “And with our cookie money, some of it went to the carts.”

The grocery carts have a special seat in the front and a locking device to keep it in place. They’re the first special-needs carts in Alaska. The project earned the girl scouts their Silver Award, the highest honor for a cadet.

“It’s something a lot of us don’t even think about, how difficult it is for some families to go to the grocery store,” said Troop leader Retha Winger. ‘”It’s been amazing to watch these girls learn about it and see that they’re actually helping in the community.”

For Bentley, the small carts have made a big difference.

“Just the ability to take her and have a hand free to grab something off the shelves rather than pushing a cart, pulling a wheelchair makes things much easier,” he said.

It’s a community service project that gives families in need something to make life a little easier, at least while they’re running errands.

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