The Traveling Bead Brings Hope and Encouragement to Kids!!!

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Arts and Health. It was an amazing experience to be among so many providers, artists, and researchers all championing arts and health.

So how do we make it through tough times? Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot as a kid for good luck? Have you or family members hung a horseshoe for good luck? Do you wear that one particular shirt, shoes, and earrings when going to an interview or some other event where you’re hoping for good luck? I remember having a rabbit’s foot; they came in lots of colors (please don’t send PETA to my doorstep). So how do we honor the journey that children take when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and provide them with a visual representation of the hurdles they’ve jumped? Well you give them a bead of course!!!!

“Beads of Courage helps children and families coping with serious illness RECORD, TELL and OWN their story of COURAGE”. Can you think of anything more beautiful than honoring every step along the child’s path in treatment. It’s interesting because if you were ever in scouting one of the key things was the “merit badge”. Beads of Courage are more than a merit badge. It’s a visual story. It’s like an archeological of treatment.

Jean Baruch, Executive Director, and Ashley Ethridge, Director of Communications and Encouragement, vivaciously shared how the program works and how widespread the program is in the United States and now heading globally. Beads are interesting because they are easy to carry and we can attribute significance and meaning to each and every bead. Beads are a great metaphor for storytelling because they are the oldest art form known to man. Beads have survived and evolved and Beads of Courage plays to that strength.

The kids are given a bead, a magnificent hand blown glass lamp bead, for each procedure or treatment they receive. An example given was that child would be given a red bead for a blood transfusion and a white bead for a chemotherapy treatment.

The community’s involvement, aside from financial support, is the ability to carry a bead. Carrying a bead allows you and I to carry a bead to an event, a destination, or anything else you can imagine infusing the bead with that experience. The bead is sent in to Beads of Courage with a story card and the child receives the bead and the story. Your story and the child’s story can come together creating a bonding experience.

During Ashley’s presentation she was wearing multiple strands of beads. She shared that this magnificent collection of beads belonged to a sixteen year old girl going through treatment. It wasn’t until a reception later in the day that Ashley explained that each of the nine strands had approximately 100 beads. You do the math; this young lady had acquired 900+ beads, what I learned in that moment is that these beads/stories had been acquired since this past December. I was in shock, awe, and relieved that she had an organization like Beads of Courage by her side.

You may be thinking that this sounds like Flat Stanley. It may have some similarities, but the notion that each and every bead has a story is amazing and scary. It’s life affirming and encouraging. The organization provides children and families a way to connect around story instead of sickness. Our stories are our legacy. These beads are a visual legacy of the journey these children and family take in the hopes of health and healing.

Let’s all grab a bead, infuse it with our own story and partner with this amazing organization.  Go to


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