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'Incredible human' Mags forms a special bond with three-year-old Hudson

Asda shopper Bex Wickens says our colleague Mags Lunn is "an incredible human" for the way she's transformed her son Hudson's shopping experience at our Neasham Road supermarket in Darlington.

June 1, 2022 02:27pm
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Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

Three-year-old Hudson, who's autistic, used to find shopping overwhelming, but Mags has gone out of her way to look after him so much that he always makes a beeline for her and gives her big hugs whenever he sees her.

Hudson now loves Asda so much that he has his own mini-Asda at home. He pops into the store up to four times a week with his mum Bex and 10-month-old baby sister Tiny.

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

Bex said: "Mags truly is an incredible human – I love watching how they are together. Other shoppers must think she's his Nana – if only I had a pound for every time he spoke about her!

"Hudson hunts her down every time we go shopping and goes back in at least five times to hug her – which is special in itself because he’s not all that big on affection.

"She’s just always totally amazing with him. She’s witnessed the meltdowns that shopping used to cause and made him feel at ease in an environment he’d usually find overwhelming. Just by being herself she’s made my life easier.

"She loves him just as much as he loves her. She's told her family about him and Hudson will tell anybody who will listen about her. In the last six months he's built friendships with most of the people in the store, but everybody knows Mags is his golden girl.

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

"She's also been known to push Hudson's baby sister Tiny around the shop so we can get on if she's getting upset. Mags is such a big part of our lives now. The world needs more people like her!"

Hudson has been going to the store since November 2020 and at first it wasn't easy.

Bex said: "For the first four months we'd go in once a week on a Monday and it would result in Hudson having a meltdown almost every time. He's always found the whole shopping experience overwhelming.

"I then got Hudson his first toy Asda basket – the aim for this was to do some role play at home to make him more comfortable. He could then take the basket from home over to the store and then hopefully lessen his anxiety by having something familiar to hand – and most of the time it worked! For his third birthday he received the Asda checkout, trolley and shelves. As soon as he saw the logo on the boxes he instantly said "Asda – my friends!"

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

The visits to the store became a fixed part of his routine and colleagues in the store got to know him and chat to him.

Hudson began to collect Asda and George toys and mini-collectable toy baskets and his mum began to document his special interest in Asda on Instagram.

Bex said: "He lives and breathes all things Asda and Asda and George were the first words he learnt to spell. Our followers were as invested as I was in finding new products to make him happy. We had a nationwide search to find him a toy home delivery van and the Asda and George wagons – and Asda head office also sent him them so now he has a whole fleet."

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

Colleagues also gave him lanyards and names badges which he proudly wears every time he visits the store.

His friendship with Mags began to blossom after he got upset over some Halloween bunting that was in the store and he wanted to hang on his own Asda at home.

Bex said: "He was fixated on it and because he couldn't have it there was a meltdown brewing. By the time we were about to leave he was upset and on the floor. I sat with him on the floor trying to defuse the situation and Mags also spoke to him whilst another colleague Alison got him a Halloween lolly off the shelf.

"They were two very simple things, but for us it was an absolute game changer. Unfortunately when your child is on the floor distressed in public you get a lot of people staring and making comments. There wasn't any judgement that day, just two woman taking a couple of minutes out of their day to make ours a lot better."

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

Now every time Hudson visits, colleagues let him scan his own shopping and go on the checkouts.

Bex said: "He's mastered all the buttons on the self service a long time ago but now knows exactly what to press on the big checkout too. He's served quite a few customers now too. When the delivery wagon is round the back of the store he's quick to go check it out; he got the chance to sit in one a couple of months back."

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

To mark his Asdaversary – celebrating his first year of liking all things Asda – Bex got him an Asda photo cake and decorated his room with balloons and green banners while Mags made him a special Asda T-shirt.

Bex said: "When Hudson came home from nursery that day he was so excited and of course wanted to share his cake with his "Asda friends", so that's exactly what he did. The world came to a standstill whilst people made a fuss of him and ate cake just like any other celebration. This was his first proper encounter with Duncan, the store manager, who that day gave him yet another lanyard and name badge but also an Asda cup too. Hudson is in awe of Duncan because he has his own real Asda!

"Generally Hudson is rather quiet and doesn't have friends his own age. He struggles to form friendships at nursery because he doesn't really have any common interests with the other kids.

"Whilst they are listening to Baby Shark and playing with toys, he's listening to Oasis and stacking shelves. And that's why the bonds he's made with colleagues have really helped his confidence; he feels they have common ground. He thinks that they love Asda as much as he does and to him he truly believes they are his friends – and what a lovely bunch of mates he does have. I can't thank them all enough for including him and making him feel part of the team."

Hudson Wickens and Mags Lunn at Asda Darlington Neasham Road

Mags, who's 60 and has a son, Mark, and three grandchildren, has worked for Asda for 20 years.

She said: "Hudson really is such a sweet little boy – he's just so adorable. There's just something about him. He's such a lovely lad. He makes my heart melt.

"One of my grandsons is autistic so that is why I feel I relate to Hudson so much.

"I always get a hug from Hudson every time he comes in. Sometimes he goes out of the shop, comes back in and crawls under the barriers to get a second hug – and sometimes he gets a third or a fourth!

"He always does his own shopping now and he's very big on his pork pies. He can sit on the till now and he puts his stuff through. Everyone loves him here."

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