Bravery Beads

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What is the Bravery Bead Program?

The precious keepsake is a medal or badge of courage for patients and their families.

With procedures, tests and events sometimes being uncomfortable or frightening for our youngest patients, the Bravery Beads program offers a tangible incentive for them to be courageous during their treatment.

When a child begins their difficult journey, they are given a necklace with their name on it.  As they undergo treatments, surgeries, chemo or any other therapy, they will receive a special bead signifying the experience.  These are called Bravery Beads and commemorate these milestones.

This program allows patients to create a necklace with colourful beads that represent their unique and special journey and to make something that they are proud of and want to share with family and friends. The program means a lot to the families as well, who see the beads as a tangible representation of their child’s courage, and of what the family has experienced together.

Each child is given the opportunity to collect a different bead for each procedure, test or events they participate in while visiting the QEII Hospital for care.  The string of beads also comes with a journal to explain each bead received.

Where did the program begin?

The Bravery Beads Program started at British Columbia Children’s Hospital in 1999.  The idea for the program came about when a pediatric social worker welcomed her teenage son home from a wilderness camp and found that he had a string of beads to commemorate milestones achieved on the trip.  When she realized how much her son valued the string of beads and how easily he was able to tell the story of each experience, each one represented by a coloured bead on the necklace, she theorized that children who have to travel the difficult journey through cancer treatment, and other medical conditions requiring hospital care, would treasure a beaded necklace as well.  She and her colleagues developed the idea and the Bravery Bead Program was born!


How has the program made a difference?

A parent said that the Bravery Bead Program has allowed her son to talk about his journey through treatment to his brother and to the other members of the family.

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.”

“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
“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!”

As one parent described it, “The necklace gives my child a voice for sharing.”