Children's Health

Bravery Hearts Necklace Program Helps Kids Cope with Illness

Eight-year-old Tori Segovia of Saugatuck knows the drill. Chemotherapy, spinal taps, radiation and sedation are once again part of her world as she is treated a second time for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This time, her treatment experience is a little different. She is able to chronicle her journey thanks to a new initiative at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital called Bravery Hearts Bravery Bead Program.

When a child begins a difficult course of treatment for cancer or is diagnosed with a condition such as kidney failure or a heart defect, they receive a necklace with their name on it. As they undergo treatments such as chemotherapy, a kidney transplant or a heart surgery, they receive special plastic or wooden beads, called Bravery Heart Beads, to commemorate those milestones.

“Bravery Hearts Bravery Bead Program is another way we can support children and families,” said Jodi Bauers, child life manager, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “As child life specialists, we look for creative ways to help children and families cope with illness or injury. The bead program adds one more tool to our toolbox to make a child’s journey a little easier.”

Each bead tells a different story and represents something significant. For children who have coped with an illness from a very young age, the necklace documents their journey. It is a way for them to recall their story even though they were too young to remember it from the beginning.

“The necklace is a tangible way for us to remember what we’re going through,” said Heather Segovia, Tori’s mom. “Sometimes it seems like all we do is come to clinic, week after week. The necklace really shows Tori and I everything she’s going through. It gives me hope.”

The following list is an example of treatments and their corresponding bead.

Treatment””’ Bead
‘Clinic visit”’ ‘Sapphire
‘Dialysis” ‘Small multi-colored heart
‘Intensive care unit admission”’ ‘Multi-colored bear
‘X-ray”” ‘Star
‘Heart catheterization”’ ‘Gold heart
‘Visit with the hospital teacher’ ‘Computer

The program started with funding from the Pediatric Oncology Resource Team, part of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Following a successful trial, the program has expanded to the entire hospital, and children now receive a necklace and beads at no charge. Beads are paid for by the sale of adult Bravery Hearts necklaces sold at the Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus gift shop. The necklaces are made of colorful glass and include a red glass heart emblem. Necklaces are $20 each and available in 15-, 17- and 19-inch chains.’ The gift shop is open Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a member of Spectrum Health, is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. The team includes more than 100 specialists uniquely skilled in providing medical care to children, in more than 40 outpatient clinical settings. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation.