When colleagues at our Langley Mill store heard how much five-year-old Ethan Leam has been missing his regular shopping trips with his mum Melissa they helped him set up his own mini-Asda at home – complete with a scanner, shopping trolley and his own Asda name badge!
Ethan, who has nonverbal autism, normally visits the store with Melissa three or four time a week on his way home from school, and has formed a close bond with colleagues over the years.
Colleagues at the store decided to send him some gifts after seeing an Instagram post from Melissa saying how much Ethan was missing them – and Melissa says she was in tears when the store's community champion Sharon Allsopp delivered the presents to their doorstep.
Melissa said: "I was just so overwhelmed – it was such an amazing gesture. I actually filled up with tears when Sharon brought them for him. It's just something you don't expect.
"It's nice that other people with children with additional needs can see that Asda are so supportive and are willing to go above and beyond to help children like Ethan. Asda has definitely got my custom for life."
Melissa, who's expecting her second child, says Ethan loves his gifts.
She said: "He especially loves the trolley. He fills it up with his plastic food and he puts his toy baby in it and pushes it around. He's been so happy since he got them. Every morning when he comes downstairs he goes straight to where his toys are and checks if his shop is still there!
"And he just loves the Asda name badge too. When he first got it he had it on all day. He had his bath, put his pyjamas on then he brought me the badge as he wanted it on his jamas too. I had to wrestle it off him when he went to bed!"
Melissa says Ethan loves the "hustle and bustle" of the store and their pre-lockdown week revolved around when they could visit, usually on the way back from school.
She said: "Ethan just loves Asda. He won't go to any other supermarket. We've been getting Asda deliveries recently due to the lockdown and our neighbours get Asda too so when Ethan sees a van pull up he runs to the window. He loves the Asda adverts too and I have to rewind them for him about 30 times at the moment.
"He loves the lights and the colours at the Langley Mill store. We have to do the same route. Ethan likes to go through fruit and veg and once we get close to the chocolate aisle he gets excited as he knows what's coming – his chocolate buttons. He is just so happy and content when he's there.
"His favourite things are the Asda crepes with the hazelnut chocolate spread in the middle. I have to buy three or four packs of these a week – he won't eat anybody else's. When he gets to them in the shop he tries to put all the boxes in the trolley!
"The colleagues at Langley Mill are just great and, over the years, we’ve got to know them very well. We always go to Adrian on the tills who is brilliant with Ethan. He aways makes an effort with him which is lovely."
The store's community champion Sharon Allsopp says everyone at the store miss seeing Ethan and Melissa.
She said: "He goes to school and they come in on the way home at least three or four times a week. He's been coming in since he was a baby and he's so lovely. He's always as good as gold and we've missed seeing him here.
"All the colleagues here know him and his mum and Ethan always makes a beeline for our checkouts colleague Adrian Gardener who is always great with him."
She says it lovely seeing Ethan's face when she delivered the gifts to him.
"It was a total surprise," said Sharon. "They didn't know I was coming – I just turned up at their door and rang the doorbell. He was very excited and Melissa was so overwhelmed.
"We put some of his favourite chocolate buttons in too and some of the Star Cards that we have – saying You're A Star etc – which he can give to his mum. It was nice to see them and to see that they were okay.
"And when we are back to normality we are going to invite him in and give him own little uniform and let him go on the checkouts too!"
Store manager Michael Long says colleagues are delighted to see how happy the presents are making Ethan.
He said: "Seeing the photos that Ethan's mum sent over of him playing with his shop just made my day. I've got two daughters myself and it was lovely to see the smile on his face.
"Everyone at our store knows Ethan and it's nice to hear that we always go above and beyond to help."