Beads of Courage

Sometimes our patients’ experiences can’t be fully captured in words, so our Beads of Courage program allows patients to express themselves through arts in medicine. The program helps our patients diagnosed with cancer in the Division of Hematology and Oncology string together beads that provide something tangible to use to tell their unique stories during treatment. It also gives patients a sense of ownership over their experience as well as recognition of the courage displayed in each visit a child makes to the hospital for treatment.

Beads of Courage is an international program created in response to the need for more supportive care programs for children with serious illnesses. Beads of Courage embraces the different meanings beads have in various cultures while giving patients the opportunity to assign their own meanings to beads.

When a child starts the program, they’re given a string with their name on it and a few starter beads to begin their story. As time goes on, they receive different beads to mark milestones in their treatment, including:

  • Birthdays
  • Surgeries
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Chemotherapy
  • Special accomplishments and acts of courage
At the end of their treatment, all participants receive a purple heart to mark the end of their difficult journey. Like the soldiers returning from the front, our patients have been wounded, but they are also survivors.

The beads serve as a meaningful way to preserve memories of a child’s treatment, and they also help give relatives or friends a different perspective  of the child’s experience.

Start Collecting Your Beads

Our program has enrolled more than 500 patients. It is also available for our Spanish speaking families. Both boys and girls are welcome to participate. Ask your social worker or nurse for more information on the program.


Learn more about our Beads of Courage program by visiting these helpful sites:


Our Beads of Courage program is funded by the Young Associates Board, as well as the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation. If you would like to contribute to the program, please contact the Foundation at 312.277.7500 or