Beads of Courage - Every bead tells a story of strength, honor, and hope
When families ask me to photograph their children, whether they are currently receiving treatment or are celebrating a health milestone, they want to show me their beads.
Nope, not those beads. Beads of Courage. The amazing people who make this program happen provide assistance to more than 60,000 children with serious and life-threatening illnesses throughout 250 children's hospitals in seven countries every year. That's awesome.
One of those kids is my son, affectionately known as The Boy. He's made it through two extended stays at our local hospital - his first was in the NICU and the second was in July. In between he's seen specialists, received treatment, and submitted to procedures. It's hard work for both of us and I wonder how this lifestyle will continue to shape him. He's three years old now. This is an especially tough time for uncomfortable things that he doesn't want to do and doesn't understand.
I haven't strung his beads and am behind in tracking what he has so courageously earned. You can see he already has a decent pile for a very young person. When I look at his beads I think of the children and their families I've met who have many, many more beads at this age. I am thankful for where we are and support those I can support as much as possible.
Beads of Courage offers eight programs for kids and their families, including bereavement and siblings. We're in the flagship program for chronic illness (other categories are cancer and blood disorders, cardiac conditions, burn injuries, and NICU). It comes with a scorecard and each type and color of bead represents a different medical experience. What you don't see in this picture are the super special beads that represent medical milestones, like the parent bead that is a glass heart. That's going to be a necklace for me and I shall wear it proudly. Each of those milestone beads is handmade.
Beads of Courage relies on generous support of volunteers, donors, and sponsors to bring encouragement to children and their families who really need it. These are kids who live in hospitals. These are kids who are too sick to go to school. These are kids who have had countless surgeries.
This is not the childhood anyone wants. Each of these kids is working his way through each day, sometimes expending tremendous effort to do something the rest of us take for granted, like use the restroom independently or chew and swallow food.
I feel extremely fortunate to have The Boy at home. We spend plenty of time at the hospital; we have the opportunity to live outside the hospital, too. Not everyone is well enough to do that. I'm doing what I can to help these children and their families. Will you join me? You can donate directly to Beads of Courage. If you are curious about where Beads of Courage might be serving in your community, check the directory of hospitals. If it's not already in your area, perhaps you are the driving force behind making that happen. There's a reason you're reading this blog post, you know.
Keywords: Beads of Courage, Mary Bridge, Tacoma, child, children, chronic illness, epilepsy, hospital, kids, nonprofit, pediatric, portrait
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