Bravery Bead Program
What is the Bravery Beads Program at The Hospital for Sick Children and how does it work?
The Bravery Bead Program allows children who wish to participate, the chance to collect a different bead for each procedure or event while visiting the hospital for treatment. The goal of the program is to make a necklace with colourful beads that represent the unique and special journey of a particular child and to make something that they are proud of and want to share with family and friends. Beads are not given as a reward or something to be earned but rather to represent each child’s individual story through treatment.
The partnership between the Women’s Auxiliary volunteers and the Child Life Specialists is a critical element in the success of the program at SickKids. Volunteers check and shop for supplies, cut and dip the rattail, fill the bead boxes in different areas, and keep the refill boxes stocked for easy access. They along with the Child Life Specialists help patients and parents build necklaces as needed.
Before the program is expanded, a bead legend is designed with new beads to represent the procedures unique to the new area. Some of the beads are exclusive to each areas. For example, “ECMO” and “Pacemaker” are unique to Cardiac; “Beanstalk program” is a bead unique to Transplant. And some beads are general ones – a “holiday” bead for those children who spend a significant holiday in the hospital; a “birthday” bead for someone who has a birthday while in the hospital. Each area has a “bead legend” to describe the beads in that area.
WOW beads are special beads given after a particularly difficult procedure or on a particularly difficult day or perhaps just a first time for accomplishing something as simple as getting out of bed. Each child selects his/her own WOW bead from the drawer.
How has the program made a difference?
"This necklace is basically the story of me and what I’ve been through…it is very rewarding to get a bead after what you have gone through…this one is my favourite beads….See? It is a little face and the dude doesn’t have hair….just like me except I still have my hair…it is thinning, though. And see? I have two teddy bears…that is for “isolation”…I guess “isolation” is a teddy bear because it is something you can cuddle with when you are alone in there….and see? This is a train….I go to another site for some of my treatment….this bead represents travel to another site. Each bead is kind of like a badge of courage…the personal value is more than what (the value) of the bead seems to be. (The necklace) gives me pride….
One mother described her four-year old’s struggle with cancer treatment. Hesitant and scared at first, the child now proudly takes her necklace to school to show the other children. One day she took it into the Principal’s office. The Principal later told the child’s parent that she was amazed to hear complex and difficult procedures like “lumbar puncture” and “bone marrow aspirate” described so matter-of-factly by a four-year old child. The parent said that the Bravery Bead Program was responsible. I feel proud when people notice my beads."
4 year-old patient
"It helps me remember all the treatments and that makes me proud…."
9 year-old patient
"Literally, it means everything….We think (the program) is wonderful –Even at such a young age, my daughter knows what they all mean and what they mean to her. The Bravery Beads meant so much to my daughters that they made my grandfather bravery beads while he was in the hospital after suffering a massive stroke. When he passed on, (we placed) the bravery beads in his hands in his casket as they also mean a lot to the whole family. "
Mother of a 5 year-old patient
"I think this program is very great because it gives us kids a reason to want to come back. It shows how brave we are!"
12 year-old patient
"A three year old is able to point to his beads and tell people what he got them for – like medals in wartime, I guess. For me, it reminds me on his bad days, just how much he is going through….he loves putting his beads on his older sister. She likes keeping track of his beads for him. It helps her understand what her brother is going through."
Mother of 3 year-old
"A special chapter in my life and also tells my life story along the way…everything I have to endure and every bead has a meaning. My sister who is 9 used them for a school project and educated the class on what (each bead) meant and what her brother went through and still has to go through.
As one parent described it, “The necklace gives my child a voice for sharing.”
"A 5 year old, ran into 8D announcing to the world that today was his last treatment, and he was coming to get his “end of treatment” bead – a smiling face surrounded by flowers – for his necklace. What a different boy from the fearful, shy one who started treatment three years ago! The beads helped him understand what was happening to him and they will continue to help him tell his story.
Bravery Beads make me feel brave and special and nice….the beads remind me of all the brave things I have done, and that makes me feel good….(they) make me feel joyful and cheerful inside…I feel good inside when people say nice things about my beads….I feel proud!"
4 year-old patient