Beads of Courage, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization transforming the treatment process for children and teens coping with serious illness through innovative Arts-in-Medicine programs. DONATE TODAY.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Guest Blog Post - Beads of Courage Member Alexis Douglas

I started my journey with Beads of Courage at three years old, although my time at the hospital was way before that. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma at two months old. I had a 10% chance of survival. In order to save me, they had to take out my kidney and give me very hardcore chemotherapy and radiation. That has affected a lot of my life after cancer. 

As I reflect on my time as a cancer survivor, and my time with Beads of Courage, I flash back to all the memories of wearing them. Even after treatment, I still wear them to so many events and I am so proud to be wearing them. I always felt guilty for not remembering my cancer treatment. Why should people be calling me a miracle if I do not remember fighting? But, as I looked at the beads, time and time again, I felt like a warrior. I still deal with the side effects and scars, and my Beads of Courage help me realize that I am still a fighter and I deserve the title of cancer survivor. 

Each bead tells a story. That is why they mean so much to me. Each bead has a different meaning and a different level of importance. Whether it is a simple blood draw or kidney surgery, Beads of Courage covers all of it. Each one means so much to me because of which doctor gave it to me, what situation I was in, and how I earned it.

As I see other survivors wear their beads, I feel a connection to them. Beads of Courage helps me understand what they had to go through and fight against to be here today. It helps me feel bonded to them and respect their strength. Beads of Courage has made such a positive impact in my life, and I am so grateful to have my beads as a reminder of all I fought against.

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Note from BOC: As a nonprofit organization, we rely on the generosity of donors who believe in the power of beads to provide hope and healing for children and teens like Alexis. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of courageous kids coping with cancer and other serious illnesses!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Carry a Bead Guest Blog Post - Paulette McGrew, Adventurer

Last year I attended the September Champ 5k Run/Walk with one of my favorite tiny humans on this planet, Ezrah, and her family. Ezrah was diagnosed with leukemia last year at the age of 2 and has been the bravest little warrior since. Our welcome pack came with some Beads of Courage for us to wear during our walk, and after the 5k we were meant to turn them back in and write a note for the fighter who would be receiving them. Well, I got so caught up in the event and everything going on that I forgot to make my way to the booth to return one of my beads and as a result, they’ve been with me ever since.

When I go on hikes and adventures, these beads almost always come with me. Ten months later the beads have done countless runs and hikes in the McDowell, Superstition, South, and Phoenix Mountains. They’ve gone adventuring with me in canyons, cliff jumping, snowboarding, swimming, camping, walking, and most recently, backpacking.

Though I don’t have very many pictures with the beads, I did make sure to capture them with me on my most recent backpacking trip. This was my first backpacking trip where I didn’t have someone to guide me; instead, I was the one guiding my friend on her first backpacking experience. There was a lot of uncertainty, a little bit of fear that something might go wrong, and slight pressure to make sure that I could create the best possible experience for her. The backpacking trip turned out to be incredibly successful despite making it out with almost 200 ant bites on my body. You win some you lose some, right?

At first, it was never my intention to take the beads almost everywhere I went, but as time went on I kept adventuring and the beads just became a part of what I did. When I’m out running, they’ve been the greatest motivator to keep going, because suddenly that run isn’t about you. It’s for someone who’s out there fighting day and night. If they can fight their fight, you can run that extra mile. You can hike that mountain, or jump off that cliff. They can do hard things and so can you.

I understand that so many of our fighters aren’t able to go outside and have the experiences that I’m so lucky to have. My hope is that I can take these beads with me and fill them with amazing energy, adventure, and joy. When things get hard I hope these beads serve as a reminder to the children who receive them that they aren’t in this fight alone. 

I know Ezrah and all the brave fighters out there are doing their very best, and I’m so incredibly proud of them. Though they may not know it, they always inspire me and push me to do better and try new things. 

I’m planning on returning these specific beads at this year’s September Champ, but my adventures with Beads of Courage don’t end there. I’m going to keep carrying more with me and hope they bring joy and strength to the kiddos who receive them.

Please visit to make a donation or sign up and join me in carrying a bead! - Paulette McGrew, adventurer

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A note from Beads of Courage: We are so grateful to Paulette and every member of Team Beads of Courage who makes the commitment to Carry a Bead and encourage a child coping with serious illness. Through the simple act of carrying beads, you let a child in the hospital know they are never alone in their fight for life. 

You can join our team today! You don't have to run a marathon or climb a mountain to participate. Make any activity matter more when you carry beads with you. Get started now with our Be a Helper Bundle, which offers two Carry a Bead kits for the price of one! As an extra bonus, we will add your location to our global Helpers Map!


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Cocktails for Courage - Thank you, Heritage Distilling!

On World Beads of Courage Day, September 15, we had great fun hosting a virtual Cocktails for Courage event, presented by Heritage Distilling Company and benefiting Beads of Courage. It was a wonderful hour with Justin Stiefel, CEO and co-founder of Heritage, and BOC supporters from coast to coast raising a toast to our mission.

Cocktails for Courage events began in 2019 and were held in person, but COVID-19 prompted the change to a virtual format this year. Prior to the event, guests were mailed a package full of goodies from Heritage Distilling and Beads of Courage.

Throughout the hour, Justin told guests about the spirits they received in their packages, with time allotted to taste each one. Heritage Distilling is one of the top premier craft distilleries in the United States, making a variety of whiskeys, vodkas, gins, aquavit and rums from as many local ingredients as possible.

Guests were also treated to virtual entertainment provided by Jolie & Sonny, a high-energy country music duo featuring two successful Texas country artists, Jolie Holliday and Sonny Burgess, who are big supporters of Beads of Courage!

Beads of Courage founder and executive director Jean Gribbon shared information on the mission of Beads of Courage, World Beads of Courage Day, and the BOC Carry a Bead program. Other activities included an online raffle and some fun surprises!

The September 15th Cocktails for Courage event was by invitation only, but don't worry! Heritage Distilling has got you covered with a special offer. Just visit their website and use the promo code BEADSOFCOURAGE for a 15% discount on spirits! But don't wait! The promo code expires on October 15, 2020.
Want to be notified of the next Cocktails for Courage? Click here to fill out an Interest Form so we can keep you posted about the next event. You must be 21 years or older to participate. Many thanks to everyone who supported World Beads of Courage Day and made Cocktails for Courage a big success. Cheers!

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post - Karen Carlson, Bead Artist

I have always loved glass. It's just a magical material. Brittle or malleable, clear or colorful, it is described as a "supercooled liquid," neither solid nor liquid, but having properties of both. I started in stained glass in the '90's and got into lampwork bead making around 2000. 

I first heard about Beads of Courage about a dozen years ago. Soda Lime Times, a wonderful lampworking tutorial magazine, did a whole issue on beads for donation. Beads for the program have to meet certain criteria - no sharp edges, no fragile easily broken bits, no metallic surface decorations that might lay against sensitive skin. There were so many adorable designs! I’ve donated a few times since then, but sadly my creative side has been a bit absent in this stressful year.

Beads of Courage is such an amazing concept. It supports kids and teens during their struggle, marks milestones and gives them a little something to make them smile. When the ISGB (International Society of Glass Beadmakers) posted that their September creativity challenge was partnered with Beads of Courage and that the theme was "Stronger Together." boxing gloves instantly popped into my head. They are the perfect shape, and a great symbol for kids who are, quite literally, fighting for their lives.

Like most ideas, it took a couple of tries to get a prototype I was happy with. The first test batch came out okay, but unfortunately there was a kiln error and they all cooled too quickly and cracked. The second batch turned out better, but I had been trying to re-create contrasting edging on the cuff and just wasn’t thrilled with the result. For the third batch, I just let the colors speak for themselves and couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.

This year has been topsy-turvy for sure, and to be dealing with illness on top of the craziness has got to be an incredible challenge for these kids and their families. When I’m not making things, I’m a nurse in surgery. I knew before I went into nursing that working with kids was not for me, and I’m so grateful that there are nurses, doctors and caregivers that rise up to that call. I’m sure the medical teams are just as appreciative of the Beads of Courage program as the kids. I feel quite fortunate to be able to use my creative side to maybe brighten someone’s day.

Thank you ISGB and Beads of Courage for reminding me that helping others is the best way to stay sane, and for giving me the opportunity to share my love of glass with others. The first dozen beads have been sent off, but I’m having such fun making them that there are another 30 waiting to be cleaned to follow them, and I’m looking forward to making many more. 

- Karen Carlson, Beads of Courage supporting bead artist

1,000 Cranes Glass on Instagram

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Note from BOC: From June through September, we are shining a spotlight on four amazing communities of volunteer artists and crafters who support our mission year-round with their beautiful donated goods. The handcrafted beads, bags and bowls they donate strengthen our arts-in-medicine mission and bring beauty to the bedside of kids coping with serious illness. The beads shown in this post were donated to Beads of Courage and will be distributed to our member hospitals and programs as Act of Courage beads.

YOU can help with a monetary gift to the Summer of ART fundraising campaign. Be a rock star! Donate $50 or more and receive this awesome TIE DYE T-shirt as our exclusive thank-you gift just for Summer of ART supporters! PEACE. LOVE. ART.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Summer of ART Guest Blog Post - Maria Schoenenberger, Bead Artist

When Beads of Courage asked me to write about why I like polymer clay, my first thought was, "It’s August. In Las Vegas. In the desert. It’s 113 degrees outside!" The idea of turning on a blow torch in the garage is not that appealing.

Then I remembered my roots. Before there were lampwork glass beads, there was polymer clay. I used to sell kaleidoscope canes on eBay back in 2001. I remember the smooth, cool texture of clay. No anxieties or worries about burning my fingers or cutting my hands. There is no thermal shock with polymer clay. No issues with chunks of hot lava popping off a rod of glass and dropping down my shirt. Polymer clay is a very calming material. There are tons of colors that can be easily swirled or stacked into an infinite number of designs. You literally can’t mess up. That’s a very calming feeling. I get so relaxed when working with clay. Not a care in the world.

Then there is the geek in me who revels in the engineering marvels of kaleidoscope canes.  I get a weird, science thrill when I cut open a cane and put the sides together and everything matches up perfectly. The perfect geometry, the perfect fractal, the perfect design.  Every little line matches up to every other line. All the parts in their place. As nature intended.

As my canes come to life, I think of the kids. I get so much joy by donating my beads.  Each bead represents a smile, a giggle, a look of astonishment.  "Mom, how did they do that? Are those designs painted on that bead?!" And, for a moment, that child no longer has an IV in their arm or a doctor at their bedside. They are just a plain ol’ kid getting excited about a little blob of clay with a design on it. That makes me happy.

I owe a debt of gratitude to all the little warriors out there fighting the fight. Thank you for letting me explore the art of polymer clay all over again. It's been 19 years since I worked with clay and I forgot how fun it was. Thank you for making me smile when I cut into a cane and see the wonderful designs. I hope you all will stare at the kaleidoscope designs with happiness, joy and wonderment. 

- Maria Schoenenberger, Beads of Courage supporting bead artist

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Note from BOC: From June through September, we are shining a spotlight on four amazing communities of volunteer artists and crafters who support our mission year-round with their beautiful donated goods. The handcrafted beads, bags and bowls they donate strengthen our arts-in-medicine mission and bring beauty to the bedside of kids coping with serious illness.

YOU can help with a monetary gift to the Summer of ART fundraising campaign. Be a rock star! Donate $50 or more and receive this awesome TIE DYE T-shirt as our exclusive thank-you gift just for Summer of ART supporters! PEACE. LOVE. ART.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Guest Blog Post - Hair Loss: One Bead’s Story

Submitted by Bead Mom Lindsey ...

It took twenty days from diagnosis for my three-year-old daughter to lose her hair. The golden strands I watched her twirl between her sweet toddler fingers was now clumping into knots and itching her skin as it stuck to her sick body.  

Adaleigh had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia B-Cell (ALL) on August 13, 2019 after a suspicious looking ear infection landed us in the emergency room. Digesting the news was hard and her super-hero oncologist explained to us that among a myriad of other side effects of treatment, she would lose her hair in just a few weeks.  

From a mom’s perspective, things had moved so quickly for our energetic-silly Addie, who spent her days twirling in sunshine and making friends with ladybugs. Now we felt the heaviness of these isolating four walls, endless syringes filled with mystery liquids, and our daughter’s newest accessory—her IV pole. Before cancer she had a catchphrase to describe her ability to face fear with her sunshine-y sparkle, and thus "Sparkly Brave" was created. 

As a trauma therapist, I knew the importance of connecting during crisis, retelling our trauma story, and simply walking through this mess with authenticity. With this concept of storytelling in mind, I decided to speak with our Child Life Specialist: "Is there something that you know of that is like a visual calendar kind of thing, to help her see her milestones?" This is when the specialist smiled, "Has anyone ever told you about the Beads of Courage program?" While I had never heard of it—I breathed in every word like it was a life raft in our cancer storm and I knew that we were ALL in!

On day twenty, I placed the "hair loss" bead in her hot pink and glitter-polished hands and she clutched it really hard. Suddenly she knew exactly what this moment was. She beamed her Sparkly Brave smile and held her bead-clutched fist to her heart and said "I’m ready now! Let’s go!"  

Adaleigh kept her bead clutched in her fist when she winced from the new sounds of clippers buzzing, when she was confused by her once beautiful curls falling to the ground, and when she didn’t have words to associate with the pain of walking into a new journey filled with unknowns and fears. Through the medicine, pain, cancer, and confusion, she was able to bravely sit while holding her bead. And we affirmed as she bravely proclaimed, "I will miss my hair, but it’s not forever."  

After her haircut she asked me proudly if she could place her new bead on her strand alongside her transfusions, her chemotherapy, her emergency room pokes, and her surgeries. From this day forward, placing a bead on her string became a way to celebrate these treatment milestones immediately—while the "sparkly brave magic" still lingers.

Those twenty days were painful. I ran my finger over her beads feeling deep devastation, loss, grief, hope, love, connection, but mostly—I felt how the power of a bead can give significance to a piece of a story that was experienced, but maybe not processed yet. I closed my eyes and imagined her telling her story of bravery through her beads of courage: during show and tell, at graduation speeches, on her wedding day, in leadership roles, to her future children. 

It was more than beads strung together: it was the weight of pain and grief, the glittered triumph of hope, mixed with textures of medical interventions and a kaleidoscope of battles that only her journey could tell. These are her Beads of Courage and this is just one of their stories.

Lindsey N. Wamsley M.A., LPC, TBRI®-Practitioner

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A note from Beads of Courage: As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we rely on the support of generous donors like you to provide Beads of Courage programs in 300 children's hospitals around the world. Please consider joining the Courage Keepers, our new monthly donor program, and becoming part of our honored Courage Keepers community. We are forever grateful for your support of our mission to bring hope and healing to the bedside of children like Adeleigh and all the courageous warriors we support. Thank you.