Our Mission


To reduce the financial burden of a post-secondary education for special-needs families

Who are we?

In 2010, David and Drew Ann Long created the first shopping cart for older children and adults with special-needs.  They named the cart in honor of their daughter, Caroline, who is diagnosed with Rett Syndrome…Caroline’s Cart!

The success of Caroline’s Cart would not be possible without the support of families that advocate for their local grocery store and other retailers to provide a more accessible, inclusive and pleasurable shopping experience for their loved one.  So, when David and Drew Ann began thinking of ways to give back to this community, they wanted to do something that rewards special needs families in a way that was special and familiar to them. 

Today, Caroline’s Cause is a non-profit charitable organization that provides scholarships to undergraduate students who have siblings with severe disabilities.  Our board consists of people who have a heart and desire to help special needs families.  Please visit our board member page to learn more. Board Members 

What do we do?

We provide scholarships to students with demonstrated financial need who have siblings with special-needs.  We also strive to raise awareness of the financial challenges facing special-needs families.

Why do we do this?

Let’s face it.  Raising a child is expensive!  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will take roughly $240,000 to raise a typical child from birth to age 18.  But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 26 families are raising at least one child with a disability.  In those cases, the cost can rise steeply; more so in single-parent households. 

The advocacy group, Autism Speaks, states that it can cost an estimated $1.4 million for a lifetime of care for a person with autism.  That cost skyrockets to $2.3 million when the individual is impacted with an intellectual disability (having an IQ less than 70).  And, sadly, the cost can go even higher in more severe medical diagnoses.  For Caroline, her Rett Syndrome diagnosis requires durable medical equipment in the home, a special liquid diet that she is tube-fed, diapers, physical and occupational therapy, expensive anti-seizure medications, and the list goes on!  Some of these expenses are covered by insurance, and some are not.

In addition to the financial challenges facing special needs families are the long list of other sacrifices they must make to care for their loved one.  Family vacations are often not an option.  Little to no breaks for the caregivers due to the unavailability or lack of qualified respite care.  Mom and dad not being able to attend the other kids’ baseball game or dance recital.  Brothers and sisters having to take on additional responsibilities just so the house can function!  These facts of life can sometimes be just as draining (if not more!) than the financial burden.

Having a daughter with a severe disability, another daughter who just graduated from Auburn University and a son planning to do the same, David and Drew Ann have experienced all of these challenges.  Through their efforts with Caroline’s Cart, they have been exposed to a variety of agencies, foundations and other entities that work in the special needs community.  And what’s more?  David has spent 30 years working in the college financial aid industry and has intimate knowledge of what a successful scholarship program requires. 

All of these factors contribute to an impactful and focused program.  But what makes a scholarship from Caroline’s Cause unique is the critical role the special-needs brother or sister plays.  Not only do they serve as an eligibility requirement, the student must also recognize their brother or sister on their scholarship application.  We request each scholarship applicant let us know how they plan to “celebrate” their brother or sister if they are chosen as a recipient.  It’s important that the student understand that their brother or sister, who they have sacrificed for, is now helping them!  

Parents win through our financial support.  The student wins through the gift of an education.  And the champion of it all is the brother or sister who makes it possible!  It’s a win-win-WIN!