Beads of Courage: Arts in Medicine
Beads of Courage is a nonprofit organization that helps over 60,000 children record, tell, and own their stories of courage during treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses. Based in Tucson, Arizona, its programs are available in more than 150 hospitals in eight countries. I’m proud to have been the first jewelry designer who was inducted into the Beads of Courage Hall of Fame and love sharing its mission with beaders and bead makers.
Founder Jean Gribbon developed Beads of Courage while pursuing her PhD in nursing at the University of Arizona. Inspired by the medals and ribbons that are awarded for other accomplishments, Jean developed this program to reward and encourage bravery. She introduced the program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in 2003.
How Beads of Courage Works
Upon enrollment, each child is given the bead-color guide with a detachable membership card. Their Beads of Courage journey begins when each child is given a length of string and beads that spells out their first name. Then children receive colorful beads from their health-care provider each time they reach a treatment milestone.
Participants in the program receive the same beads for treatments and procedures. For example, they receive a white bead for a chemotherapy treatment or a black bead each time they’re poked with a needle. This makes it easier for a child to identify other kids who have been through the same experience. The bead pharmacy stocks all of these colorful prescription beads, which are made especially for the program.
Making Glass Beads for the Cause
Beads of Courage partners with the bead-making community to provide Acts of Courage Beads. These artist-made glass beads are given to acknowledge extraordinary courage at treatment-defining moments. Glass-bead artists donate tens of thousands of handcrafted glass beads annually so children can continue to receive one-of-a-kind beads for significant treatment milestones.
Carry a Bead Program
Bead artists also make beads for the Carry a Bead program. Each Carry a Bead kit includes a matched set of beads. Members of the community carry both beads for a period of time or a special event such as a trip or a race. Then one bead is returned to the Beads of Courage headquarters with a note of encouragement to be given to a child on a tough treatment day.
Beads of Courage Events
Beads of Courage hosts many events at its Tucson headquarters throughout the year, from the monthly Open Studios Under the Full Moon to the annual Bracelet Making Party each February during the gem shows, and more. Facebook is the best place to find out what’s happening.
There are many ways to support the children who receive beads, from donating money or handmade beads to attending an event or sewing bead bags for members. You can buy a special Carry a Bead kit and use your bead to create a fun piece of jewelry to share on social media.
Next time you’re in Tucson, stop by the Beads of Courage headquarters in the Metal Arts Village. Pick up a T-shirt or shop their one-of-a-kind jewelry. Online visit BeadsofCourage.org to shop, donate, learn more about this amazing organization, or find out how you can get involved.
Interim Managing Editor, Beadwork