Erica Reed had a love for many things — zebras, flamingos, donuts, Disney characters, ballcaps and especially the color pink.
But what she loved to do most was shopping and, in particular, grocery shopping at North Scott Foods. It was that simple joy that led her grieving family, including her parents Dan and Debby Reed, to have one of the store's grocery carts painted pink in Erica's memory.
"Erica was a special needs adult, she was very friendly," her mother said, recalling how employees of the Eldridge grocery knew her name and stopped to talk and joke with her daughter.
"She'd go with her list and her hat. She'd wave and talk to people. Just being able to do that (made her day)," Debby Reed said. Although 35 years old, Erica was "forever childlike."
A 2004 North Scott High School graduate, Erica died Nov. 4 at University of Iowa Hospitals from complications of a seizure disorder.
Debby Reed said the shopping cart memorial began as a silly idea of one of Erica's aunts. "We were sitting in the family lounge at the ICU in Iowa City when we'd gotten the news she was brain dead... We started talking about the things she loved and what we could do (to honor her). My sister blurted out a pink shopping cart."
The family thought the idea was cute, but dismissed it.
But soon after Erica's death, another of Erica's aunts, Brandi Lord, was shopping at North Scott Foods when she approached a store manager about their idea.
"The family asked us is we'd donate a cart, we said absolutely," said Steve Grolmus, owner of North Scott Foods. "It's been a great addition. Everybody here knew her."
Debby Reed said the generosity and compassion toward her family continued when she went to Eldridge Body Shop to inquire if they could paint a shopping cart and its price. "It had to be pink."
She recalled shop owner Darin Woeber, whom she had never met, being caught off guard by her request. "He paused a minute and said 'I beg your pardon. What's the story?'"
Then without hesitation, Woeber told her "We will take care of this."
In fact, the body shop employees not only painted the cart a pearly pink, but replaced all the hardware, such as the screws and bolts, with new parts.
"It looks brand new," Debby Reed said. "I've just felt so much gratitude for people who've helped us, people who haven't even known us."
A pair of signs that say "Erica's Cart" now adorn the cart. They were donated by Chris Mandle of Mandle Design, Rock Island, whose wife, Kristen, had been one of Erica's first caregivers. "Chris used Erica's signature and added an (apostrophe) S to look like her handwriting."
The journey of the pink cart as well as knowing that Erica's death changed the lives of others with her organ donations are helping the family in their grief.
"She saved four lives," said Debby Reed, whose daughter, Jennifer Reed, suggested donating her sister's organs. Erica's lungs, liver and two kidneys were donated.
Through the Iowa Donor Network, the Reeds plan to meet some of the organ recipients one day.
Debby Reed said the cart not only lets shoppers know of Erica, but "it is to remind us and others not to take the simple tasks for granted."
Last summer, when Erica's health began to fail, "shopping was the one thing she could do." Most days, seizures kept her daughter homebound.
But on the days Erica had the strength to get dressed and moving, they would go to the grocery store. "If she got out to the store at the end of the day she'd say 'I had a good day,'" Debby Reed recalled.
Since delivering the pink cart to the store after Christmas, the Reeds have seen many a shopper use it.
"I saw a big construction worker pushing it, so that was great," Erica's father, Dan Reed, said.
The cart also sparks many friends to call or text Debby Reed to let her know "I'm using Erica's cart."