Bravery Hearts Program
Since the Child Life department adopted and introduced the Bravery Hearts Program in 2005, children and adolescents have been proudly wearing the necklaces demonstrating their courageous journey in their fight against cancer. Each bead represents a procedure or treatment; a brightly coloured fish is given when a child’s central line is accessed, a red bead represents a transfusion, and a bead with balloons represents a very important milestone- a birthday!
The program has a multitude of benefits for the young participants. The colourful necklaces that bear their names provide children with an on-going opportunity to share their stories of courage. The program promotes a child’s or adolescent’s ability to cope with their battle against cancer while acting as encouragement by emphasizing their strengths.
Participation in the program is open to children of all ages. Even the youngest of children are enrolled in the program by their parents who collect the beads and make the necklaces for their infants. In the future these tangible mementos can serve as a reminder of the courage they displayed at such a young age. Parents often feel they themselves benefit from collecting beads that underline their child’s treatment journey.
The collection of beads can also act as a reward program, for instance the “WOW” bead is one that children receive when they achieve what is deemed by themselves and their parents as a special accomplishment. Examples include holding still during a difficult procedure or taking a medication that may taste particularly bad.
The beads often take on different meanings for each child and parent. For example, a mother of a three-year-old child living with cancer explained that she would like to use the beads as a symbol of motivation for her son in the future. If he feels unable to accomplish a goal, the beads may act as a reminder of his strength. One five-year-old girl uses her necklace as way to explain to her friends all the challenges she has gone through living with cancer. The encouragement found through the program is limitless!
The Bravery Hearts Program has also expanded to other departments. The Child Life specialist who works with children with cystic fibrosis adapted the beads to the various treatments and procedures these children experience.
To date the program has touched many children and adolescents, positively impacting their lives despite all the challenges they face.
The program is funded by the sale of Bravery Heart necklaces and bracelets available through the Foundation’s website: childrenfoundation.com