Beading as Therapy: The Children’s Healing Arts Project

Recently, I talked with Lindsay Ross, the managing director of the Children's Healing Arts Project (CHAP), a program that teaches hospitalized children as young as three how to bead, along with their families.  During the interview, Lindsay remarked, "All of the 'bead people' understand the power and peace found in beading." It's up to us to spread the word to those who don't already know the joys of beading. One person can definitely make a difference!–Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor

Michelle: Tell me about the start of the CHAP program. When did it begin? How did the idea come up?

Lindsay: The bead program at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon was brought to CHAP three years ago by a teenage girl who had lost her father to cancer. She had spent years sitting in hospitals during her father's many procedures and transplants. She had watched every movie and volunteers had read her every book available to help her pass the time. She began to bead and found that it calmed her mind and brought peace to her soul. When her father passed away, this young woman took $500 of the money her father left her to bring "Bedside Beads" to Doernbecher. Hospitals are not equipped to handle walk-in art classes, so they sent her to CHAP. Beading was an instant success and within a month CHAP was fundraising to purchase more beads for our new art class. CHAP has since taken a class that was for children in the general population at the hospitals and has adapted it to fit the needs of different areas and populations, including waiting rooms outside of surgery wards, oncology floors, monthly grief counseling meetings for hospital staff, and art days in the lobbies.

Michelle: I noticed that you involve both families and the children in the beading projects. What is the benefit of involving the whole family?

At left: Three young CHAP artists (Carly Jean, Lesly, and Teresa), arts patron Jean McGuire Coleman, and CHAP's Artistic Director Frank Etxaniz playing with 1,000,000 amber glass beads.

Lindsay: CHAP's mission is to bring the healing power of art to children in crisis, but the ripple effect of our work is helping bring peace to the families that surround and support a child that is sick. Bead classes in the hospitals give a family something of value to take away, a small work of art to mark the day, as memory and love are built into the jewelry they make. The men are often the last to join in, but once they start in they are often the last to finish. My father strung over 6,000 beads on one weekend while watching football! He says he finds it very relaxing. Mothers in particular are the most grateful, as one mother told us, "Thank you for giving me something to think about today other than my daughter in surgery."

Michelle: What kinds of beading projects are typical?

Lindsay: CHAP uses primarily glass beads, from 4mm to 6mm, seed beads, wood beads, clay, and some plastic, but we also use many odds and ends that are included in the thousands of beads we offer during each class. We tend to make a lot of memory wire bracelets, in both child and adult sizes, necklaces, and some earrings. We also have the Million Bead Project for others who are more interested in the process of beading than the end product itself. Those people will sit for hours beading 8-foot strands to help CHAP create a work of art.

Thanks, Lindsay!  For more information about the CHAP project, including ways you can help, visit the website:

Editor's Note:   This project is partially supported by a grant from the Portland Bead Society. The Portland Bead Society helps fund bead research projects all over the world, as well as local bead education in the school system and in the community. They also sponsor a museum purchase award where they purchase beadwork from local artists and donate it to museums like the Bead Museum in Glendale, Arizona and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in Portland, Oregon.


Bead Star Contest Reminder: Get your entry in by this Friday (April 25, 2008) and you will be eligible for an Early Bird random drawing for a $250 gift card. See the complete rules for details.

New Reader Poll: Do you sketch your jewelry designs? This poll ends May 9, 2008.

Coming Wednesday: Contributing editor Jean Campbell reveals her top ten beading tools.


Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.


Every summer at our bead shop we have Kid's Camp. We hold it every Wed and let the kids have free run of the shop. Every child brings their own money and makes what their budget allows. We have found this to be not only successful BUT very rewarding for US!

It is wonderful to read about CHAP. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 11 years ago. By 2006 I was so sick that I had to leave my career and was in bed most of the time. My husband and I were looking for natural ways to heal. We both realized I needed to be creative. Beading was my answer. It has helped in the feeling of being productive, but more importantly peace and serenity. Beading is a huge part of my personal therapy. I just attended my first Bead Fest in Miami and took 3 classes! It was fantastic! It is wonderful to now that CHAP is offering this to those in the hospitals.

I am a 46 year old woman who has multiple sclerosis and degenertive disc disease (I have many rods and screws in my back). Pain is a giant part of my day. I am master gardener that just loved to play in the dirt. My condition has progressed that I am no longer able to garden. This is the first spring that I won't be able to plant anything. It's been a very hard adjustment, but, I have put all my energy into beading. I can be creative with beads like I was with gardening. Beading is really helping me to forget about what I can't do. I love beading and it doesn't hurt at all!

With 5 little ones (12, 9, 6, 4, and 3) and being a stay-at-home mom, beading is my "me time"…almost every night after they go to bed, I break out all my supplies and go crazy.

I'm also involved with a class on AOL where we look through all the members' items (posted on one of the free picture sites available) and we pick what we want to learn and those are our "lesson plans" for the year. We take turns teaching different projects once a week and on months with an "extra" week, we'll do informational chats with questions and answers from new and old beaders alike, re-teach the basics (crimping, making wrapped loops, etc.) for new members, as well as just talk about beads, where to order, LBS's, etc.

I also do a lot of parties with local friends who bead. They have, for the most part, all bought their own tools, but leave them here as we have the parties here (I have the biggest bead stash), but they also bring bags of beads and/or charms to share (which also get left here LOL). These jewelry making parties for local beading friends make for a great "Girl's Night In". With only 4 of us, we've managed to make over 50 items in one night…for ourselves, for our children, a few to sell, and other family/friends.

I am a volunteer beading instructor at the Vernon Council On Aging, VCOA, in Leesville, LA. I approached the VCOA about a beading class for the seniors. They agreed to purchase the tools and beads for the seniors to use free of charge. We meet every Thursday from 9 – 11. It is wonderful to see what these seniors, both men & women, can do even with poor eye site and shakey hands. We have more need for beads than the VCOA can afford so I have approached three civic organizations in the area for donations to buy beads for the seniors. So far the Eastern Star, DeRidder Gem and Mineral Society and the American Legion and American Legion Auxillary have donated funds for this purpose. The seniors are so proud of their works of art. It always amazes me that you can give a group of people the same stash of beads and they each come up with a different design for their creations.

Betty Gosewehr


I can't thank you enough for this post.

I've been beading for about 5 years and recently began selling my designs in a salon. Since I'm a committed Christian and everything I do I want to do for Christ to be honored, I've been wondering how I could use my love for this art form (which my husband calls an addiction) to help others and show them Christ's love through me….what a wonderful idea.

I have personal experience with several serious hospitalizations of loved ones and know 1st hand how long the time seems to takes when someone is in the operating room or in ICU/CCU when you have to wait until you can go in for 10-15 minutes to visit your loved one, even if its just to see that they are still breathing.

I'm going to pray about this and then put feet to those prayers to see how I can start this type of thing in my area!

Thanks again,

Sharon Jones

I myself personally suffer with a severe anxiety disorder and without my beads or my bead store I think I would die. When I am stressed out which happens often owing a bead store and not being able to work or drive a vehicle due to the fact that I have seizures I do find beading very relaxing and I find that it takes my mind off my stresses and make me often wonder why I don't bead more TMG Beads Murida Gardiner

I have various projects that are connected to surgery, illness, family members, and it is the cheapest therapy as it is available at home with immediate results. I had a time my vision was distorted and I had to stop beading so I organized beads instead. It works.

This is a wonderful idea. I starting beading at night when my Mom was not doing well. She was able to see some of my first projects prior to her passing away. That was 5 years ago.

Thank you for the article about the CHAP program at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. As a proud member of Portland Bead Society, I am grateful for the publicity and support for this program. Thank you so much, Barbara Erickson, Member of Portland Bead Society

From New Zealand… We have Bravery beads, an initiative from Child Cancer, to mark each milestone in treatment. Please take the time to have a look at the link which shows the New Zealand site. Thankyou for the opportunity to share in this. Regards, Rona.

Just a comment of how beading/jewelry making helped me through stressful times…3 years ago my husband lost his job, unexpectadly, and a spiral of events happened that ended in us loosing our home. We ended up in a "traveling pattern" for the next 2 years and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, sitting in motels. My husband bought me a simple all-in-one kit, that included the materials for a watch, bracelets, and 2 necklaces. The first item I made according to direction, and from then on, it was my own creations. By the following week, I had found a beading store, and I was hooked. I enjoy it and find beading very relaxing….it has helped me to breathe!

I am glad that there are bead groups that help those in need. Makes a person realize there are still good people out there. I started beading almost 3 years ago when an injury put me out of work. I taught myself everything as there are no bead stores or beaders that I know in my area. I use beading as a way to keep my mind focused elsewhere and not on my daily pain. It has been a big help to me personally. My husband calls it my addiction, also. Someday I hope to teach and sell more of my items. God bless you, Michelle and the work you do to bring us this newsletter everyday. It gives those of us who don't or can't get out as much, something to look forward to.

Most of my days are spent in a reclining position due to chronic pain and limited mobility. Bead and wire work sustains me by giving me a sense of joy and purpose. I can lose myself in a project which reduces the stresses in my life. I am blessed to have found creativity.

Hi Michelle, I work in an acute mental health facility in Australia and run a class on beading. It is so popular and therapeutic that I'm often asked about beading as soon as I arrive at work. It provides relaxation, focus, diversion, satisfaction and a lovely gift to take home. The classes are simple and tailored to the ability of the people involved. I am a graduate gemmologist and prefer to work with gemstones. You can see some of my work at Thankyou for your newsletters. Kind regards Jeanette

I too have mental illness. I suffer from depression and anxiety and on the really bad days beading helps like no other therapy. Both of my parents are in a nursing home so I spend time every week sitting with them, and visiting with other residents. I wonder if bead therapy would benifit them as well, I'm going to sugest it at the next care plan meeting. Thanks for a wonderful article!

Hi! my name is Susan Jones I started beading 6 months ago and is a fun and creative way to releive stress and the beauty of is looking at your creations, I have made so many anklets,bracelets and earrings and not one piece is the same. Now does anyone know how to sale the bracelets with a good display to show pieces? And where would be the best place to sale? beading is very addictive fun but I sure don't need 400 pieces of jewelry. Thank you,and may beads be with you and releive your stress!!!!! May God Bless

I am a Guidance Counselor in a Middle School in Orlando, Florida. Last year I started an acedemic success club called the BEADS Club. The BEADS Club was created as a means to encourage students to Be Empowered and Attentive Doing Schoolwork. All 7th grade students are encouraged to join this free club. Students sign a contract to follow club rules designed to improve grades and set an academic goal to raise at least one academic class a higher letter grade from their previous report card. When students are sucessful they have lunch with me or vist before or after school, sometimes with their parent to participate in designing and making a piece of silver jewelry to keep or to give as a gift to a loved one. Then they set a new goal for the next report card. The BEADS Club makes conversation about raising grades with students and their families a lot of fun. You should see me with my cart of beads and supplies at lunch it is quite a site!

Before I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Borderline Personaly Disorder I stopped going to my college classes. I would sit in front of my tv and bead for hours. That beading saved my life. Since then I started a jewelry business with my sister and have sold almost all of the work I made during that dark time.

I work as an occupational therapist in an acute care psychiatric unit and use beading in group therapy treatment sessions. I have found that these weekly craft groups are one of the more successful interventions that we can use in our setting. Meaningful personalized beading projects seem to be able to motivate and bring about a sense of purpose and satisfaction in most participants.

I work as an occupational therapist in an acute care psychiatric unit and use beading in group therapy treatment sessions. I have found that these weekly craft groups are one of the more successful interventions that we can use in our setting. Meaningful personalized beading projects seem to be able to motivate and bring about a sense of purpose and satisfaction in most participants.


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