You may see some different looking new carts (or "buggies" as they call them here in the South) soon at your local commissary, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) officials announced last week.
The commissary system plans to send carts developed specifically for special needs children who cannot use a traditional cart to 40 stateside commissaries, with the roll-out already in motion.
The cart, called "Caroline's Cart," lets special needs children, or really anyone under 250 lbs., grocery shop with their parent or caretaker.
"Many retailers and malls are now offering these special-needs carts," Randy Eller, DeCA's deputy director of logistics said in a press release. "Placing these carts into our commissaries will provide a valuable service to many military families at these installations."
Caroline's Carts have handles that swing away to allow easy access to the seat and a platform below the seat that serves as a footrest, commissary officials said. The occupant faces the cart operator, and the seat contains a five-point adjustable harness for support. It has two 8-inch wheels, four casters and breaks to help ensure safety while loading or unloading the passenger.
Commissary officials said they chose the 40 stores for the carts based largely on store interest.
The cart, according to several news reports cost about $850 each -- compared to $125 for a "normal" cart. (DeCA officials did not respond to requests for cart cost information). And while that may seem steep, especially in an atmosphere where DeCA's budget is under serious scrutiny, advocates for the carts say having them is invaluable.
Edit: DeCA just let me know that they paid $775 for each of the carts, compared to about $102 for a regular cart.
Wendy Kruse is one of the parents who will be using the carts when they arrive at her Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. She said right now taking her 7-year-old daughter Addie, who is a quadriplegic grocery shopping is nearly impossible. Unless she has another adult with her to push her daughter's wheelchair while she pushes a cart, she can only shop when she can leave Addie home in respite care.
"This is going to be an amazing thing for kids that have mobility issues, this is going to be wonderful," said Wendy Kruse, founder of the Military Special Needs Network, which connects and advocates for military families with special needs children. "Going grocery shopping is a mundane, normal typical task to do, but our families sometimes can't even do that. But to be able to add a little of normal so we can do common things, that is huge."
Is your commissary getting the carts? Here's a list of where they are headed:
Alabama: Redstone Arsenal California: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Naval Air Station Lemoore, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Naval Base San Diego, Vandenberg Air Force Base Colorado: Peterson Air Force Base D.C.: Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Florida: Naval Station Mayport, Patrick Air Force Base Georgia: Fort Benning, Fort Gordon Hawaii: Pearl Harbor Commissary at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Illinois: Naval Station Great Lakes Kansas: Fort Leavenworth, McConnell Air Force Base Kentucky: Fort Knox Maryland: Fort Meade Missouri: Richards-Gebaur Montana: Malmstrom Air Force Base Nevada: Nellis Air Force Base New Hampshire: Naval Shipyard Portsmouth New Mexico: Cannon Air Force Base New York: Fort Hamilton North Carolina: Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Fort Bragg South Ohio: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Oklahoma: Tinker Air Force Base South Carolina: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Tennessee: Naval Support Activity Memphis Texas: Fort Bliss, Fort Hood - Clear Creek Virginia: Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Langley-Eustis (both commissaries), Naval Air Station Oceana, Marine Corps Base Quantico Washington: Fairchild Air Force Base, McChord Commissary at Joint Base Lewis-McChord