It’s not a strand of beads. It’s a profile in courage.

Portrait of Gabi by Tiny Sparrow Foundation.

Last Sunday, I came home from church to find Larry watching CBS Sunday Morning. I plopped down beside him and before 2 minutes went by, we were both sitting there, sobbing on the sofa, as we watched this beautiful story:

Beads of Courage was started by Jean Baruch, a pediatric oncology nurse working on her PhD, who wanted to do more for the children she saw facing serious illness. She knew she could meet their physical and medical needs, but she felt called to do something more – to help them cope with the profound emotional consequences of spending 2-3 years getting spinal taps and bone marrow procedures, while other kids are running around getting detentions and pissing off their parents.

Jean Baruch & friend/Ladies Home Journal.

Baruch is a bead afficiando, living in a land where beading is revered, so she decided to use these ancient symbols of status, myth, and protection to create a living testament of the child’s journey – with a bead commemorating each act of courage and endurance.

Jean started Beads of Courage in 2004 in a pilot program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and it was an immediate hit with kids who could use their beads to record, tell, and own their stories of survival in a vivid, beautiful way. A yellow bead recalls a night spent in the hospital. Magenta, a trip to the ER. Red for a blood transfusion. Brown for losing your hair. White for every chemotherapy treatment. A pewter anchor for stormy times. Special, handmade glass beads for particular Acts of Courage and the final, glorious purple heart for completion of treatment.

The purple heart signifies completion of treatment.(Tiny Sparrow)

Each bead has been thoughtfully chosen and thoroughly researched to reflect a meaningful acknowledgment of each step in a child’s treatment. And the kids are fully engaged with developing the strands that document their own brave journeys.

Today, Beads of Courage is in 80 children’s hospitals across America, in Japan and New Zealand – each program with its own coordinator and sponsor – and the program has grown to include children going through cardiac, burn, NICU, and hematology treatment. Beads come pouring in from volunteer artists at the Arizona Society of Glass Beadmakers and the International Society of Glass Beadmakers, and some sponsors like Aflac have even developed their own commemorative beads.

For $5, you can be a child's Wingman!

You can click here to buy a $5 Aflac Wingman bead & Encouragement book for a child battling illness to remind them that they are never flying solo. Or for $25, send a flock of 5 Wingman beads to 5 children and get one yourself to pass along! Or simply click here to help Beads of Courage celebrate the bravery of kids going through something no child should have to experience.