Capturing the meaning of the Beads of Courage® after treatment ends

Here are some fantastic ideas for displaying or safeguarding your child's Beads of Courage® once their treatment for childhood cancer ends.

Throughout each child’s active treatment for cancer the Beads of Courage® programme provides a tangible story of their experience, honouring their strength, courage and resilience. Just like each child and their family’s experience of cancer is different, so is each whānau’s connection to the beads.

At the end of a child’s active treatment, they are presented with their Purple Heart bead and certificate to symbolise their completion of the Beads of Courage® programme. This is often an incredibly special occasion and allows families to reflect on how far they have come as well as celebrate the beginning of a new chapter.

But what happens to a child’s beads after their Purple Heart celebration?

“The good news is that there is no wrong way to display the beads!” says Franziska Poschl, who coordinates the Beads of Courage® programme at Child Cancer Foundation. “Some families create patterns with the beads on their strings whereas others aim to have them arranged chronologically to represent their journey in a linear way.”

Franziska suggests a nice way to display the strings of beads might be to hang the necklaces on a hook in the child’s bedroom or somewhere else in the home. Other families might like to hang them as a garland or lay them out with family photos on a hearth.

“Some young people choose to thread a particularly significant bead on a string by itself and wear this as a daily reminder of their strength,” says Franziska. “A younger child might choose to put theirs on a special teddy bear.”

However, other families might find that they don’t want to be reminded of their child’s treatment every day. This is just as valid as wanting to have them on display, and there are many special ways families can safeguard them while honouring their significance. Some may choose to keep them in their Child Cancer Foundation Beads of Courage® cloth bag or they may find or make a special box where they keep items associated with their child’s treatment, such as cards from friends, drawings their child made in hospital and photos from treatment.

“Having a solid container for the beads stops them from getting damaged,” says Franziska, “but it can also be a metaphorical way of keeping big feelings that may be associated with the beads safe and held.”

It is also totally normal if a child or family’s desire to see their beads changes over time. They may initially want to keep them safely stored and then display them or vice versa. The important thing is that they are a source of support and strength for the child and their whānau, whatever that may mean for them.

How some whānau have chosen to display or safeguard their beads:

Esme Palmer, diagnosed age four

“This is mangopare, the hammerhead shark, which symbolizes strength, determination, tenacity and fighting spirit. Seeing this every day reminds me how lucky we are, to never underestimate my child and to value every moment of every day.” – Esme’s mum, Megan

Maya Shatura, diagnosed age three

“I spent a long time contemplating the best way to display Maya’s beads. When this issue of Sharing magazine arrived she was so proud to see herself on the cover, so I had the picture blown up to A3 size and surrounded it with the beads.” – Maya’s mum, Shannon

Isabella Nancekivell, diagnosed age seven

“One day we will transfer Isabella’s beads to a frame of some sort, but at the moment she still likes to show them off, and we find more people donate to Child Cancer Foundation when she wears them.” – Isabella’s mum, Ollivia

Mya Kata, diagnosed age five

“This beautiful box was made by my uncle Paul. We wanted something significant that could hold all the things that represent this time in Mya’s life. Although it was painful, hard and terrifying it also shows how brave our little girl was.” – Mya’s mum, Teresa

BEADS OF COURAGE® is a federally registered trademark of Beads of Courage, Inc., and is used under license.  We are proud to provide the BEADS OF COURAGE® program, which is owned by and licensed from Beads of Courage, Inc. dba Center for Arts in Nursing. For more information on BEADS OF COURAGE®, visit: