Journey Beads are back

March 22, 2021
Popular program returns for Child Life Month.
Two beaded necklaces
A common part of every family’s RMHC Toronto experience is collecting Journey Beads. Walking around the House, many children will wear their Journey Beads as colourful necklaces, and parents use them as key chains. Even RMHC Toronto staff love Journey Beads and will attach them to their ID badge.

Our Journey Beads program allows families to collect colourful beads that represent their unique experiences as they navigate their time with RMHC Toronto. What makes this program special is that siblings, parents, and grandparents can all collect beads along with the patient. Kids and adults alike all receive beads for a variety of positive and difficult experiences, like attending an activity at the House, achieving a milestone, having a tough day, or celebrating a birthday.

While the Journey Beads program was paused in 2020 due to implications from COVID-19, there was a lot of enthusiasm to re-launch the program at the House once there was a modified plan. Thanks to the initiative of Erin Gunraj, RMHC Toronto’s Child Life Specialist, the Journey Beads were re-introduced this March during Child Life Month. Erin updated the Journey Bead legend to reflect new and modified experiences that align with public health and safety protocols, which is especially relevant for RMHC Toronto families with immunocompromised children.

“Most of the beads remained the same, since many are linked to experiences like a birthday or holiday. But of course, some were changed. For example, previously families earned a sparkly blue bead for attending a city outing, but now families will earn that bead if they go on a walk in the neighbourhood,” says Erin.

The feedback and response from families has been overwhelmingly positive.

“From the moment I finished the virtual re-launch, families immediately came to the Front Desk to meet our staff, which earns them a Sunflower bead. I even heard about one five-year-old girl who asked her parents to go on a nature walk to earn their wooden bead. I’m so happy to hear families are loving it,” says Erin.

Erin also found a new and safe way to deliver the beads once they are earned. She created a paper slip to fill out once a family lets her know about the achievement, and the slip is delivered outside their room at the House with the corresponding bead.

While the program has gone through some changes, ultimately Journey Beads are still a visible representation for families to see that others are on a similar journey as them and that they are not alone. The beads also help families share their experiences in a tangible way with extended family members and friends, serving as an ever-present visual reminder to take the journey one step, one bead, at a time.
“Children get really excited about their collection and are proud to show them off, which can help them share their story in a way that is empowering to them. I love that no one has the same number or combination of beads – because it represents that family member’s unique experience. Even for parents, I hope their beads become a memorable keepsake that brings comfort.”

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