SITKA — A trip to the grocery store can be a big ordeal for parents of children with disabilities.
“It can be challenging, because I have two other kids as well,” said Jaime Bentley, whose middle child, Jema, has intractable epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
But the members of Girl Scout Troop 4140 are hoping to turn the trip to the store into a better experience for Jaime, Jema – and other children and parents – by purchasing three grocery shopping carts that can carry a person with disabilities weighing up to 200 pounds.
“Wash Away Hunger,” the fundraiser for the carts, was scheduled Saturday at the Sitka Fire Hall.
The event included a car wash to raise funds for the carts, and also a canned food drive for the Salvation Army.
In honor of their troop number, the girls’ goal is to raise $4,140 for three “Caroline’s Carts” and to collect 4,140 pounds of food.
Caroline’s Carts are similar in style to the regular grocery store cart, but instead of a small child seat, they have a large seat and safety features, as well as space for groceries.
Seventh-graders Allison Winger and Ariana Strickland, members of Troop 4140, are leading the fundraiser on their way toward earning the Girl Scout Silver Award.
The Silver Award is the highest honor that a Girl Scout can earn for their particular age. To receive the medal they need to put in 50 hours of community service and complete a project that benefits the community, troop volunteer Retha Winger explained.
The troop participates regularly in Salvation Army food drives, and has just returned from a trip south, where they sorted food at the Food Lifeline of Seattle. They said they thought a combined food drive and fundraiser would be a good idea for their Silver Award project.
“We’re going to ask for money to buy Caroline’s Cart,” Allison said.
Jaime Bentley said she was surprised and pleased when she was approached by the Girl Scouts about purchasing the cart.
She said when she goes to the store, she pushes Jema in a wheelchair while pulling the cart behind her. A Caroline’s Cart will make it easier to shop, particularly when she has her 2-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter in tow, she said.
“Caroline’s Cart will allow me to use my hands a little bit more,” Jaime Bentley said. “It’s going to be nice for Jema, too. It will allow her to get out in the community more, and experience the grocery store. This will allow her to spend more time in the grocery store.”
Retha Winger said it was a challenge for Allison and Ariana to identify a need in the community not already being met.
“There’s so many places in town that already address issues,” she said. “The challenge is to find something that isn’t already being done – not to duplicate someone else’s project.”
If the girls are successful in their fundraiser, Sitka will have the first three Caroline’s Carts in the state, according to the Caroline’s Cart website.
Other Troop 4140 service projects have included a campaign in 2012 and 2013 to provide winter coats for needy Sitkans, and serving as volunteers at the Salvation Army.
The troop meets once or twice a month, and frequently is involved in raising money for trips. This summer, the nine went to Seattle, where they volunteered at the food distribution center and Special Olympics, spent time at Great Wolf Lodge and took a class on etiquette.
“I’d been teasing the girls for years that I was going to make them take an etiquette class,” Retha said. She was somewhat surprised that such courses still existed.
They then spent the rest of the eight-day trip in Idaho.