A recent colourful, fun run has raised a record amount of funding for a special, colourful program for sick kids in Saskatoon Health Region and around the province.

The Saskatchewan Colour Festival Fun Run, held June 5 at Lakeview Park in Saskatoon, raises funds for Beads of Courage programming in Saskatchewan.

Children run through One of the colour stations at the Fun Run.

Children run through one of the colour stations at the Fun Run. photo by Steve Hiscock

Beads of Courage is an Arts in Medicine program that supports children and infants living with chronic or life threatening conditions by helping them record, share, and own their stories of courage with glass beads. The kids receive glass beads each time they endure a medical test, procedure, or surgery.

“This year’s run completely sold out, and we raised a record amount,” said organizer Tara Johnson. “Many of our volunteers have chronically sick children who also collect beads, so this event is so important for us. Because of the support from our participants and sponsors, the Colour Festival Fun Run raised $27,474. In the past four years combined, we have raised $80,860 in total for Beads of Courage programming in Saskatchewan.”

The large amount from this year’s event will fund all Beads of Courage programming in Saskatchewan for a full year – in both the Saskatoon and Regina Neonatal Intensive Care Units and Cancer Clinics.

Elara and her beads
Read the story of Elara and her beads below.

The Colour Festival Fun Run for Beads of Courage is completely volunteer-run and was started in 2013 by Johnson, Laura Harms, and Maryann Deutscher. The volunteer group was quickly expanded to include Danielle Scissons, Jennifer Atamanchuk, Ali Gillespie-Kraft, and Kara Fafard Todd.


Photo by Steve Hiscock

The Colour Festival Fun Run is an untimed five kilometre event open to people of all skill levels. Participants are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the atmosphere and get ready for the run. Along the wheelchair- and stroller-accessible course, they pass through colour stations, where volunteers toss celebration powder (made from cornstarch) at the participants, who accumulate colours on their bodies – symbolizing the colourful strands of beads these courageous children use to tell the stories of their medical journeys.

Photo by Steve Hiscock

“The course has been in Lakeview Community park the last four years in a row. It’s very family friendly and children are able to participate for free,” said Johnson.

photo by Steve Hiscock

photo by Steve Hiscock

The registration fee for adults in the run includes a white T-shirt to wear at the run, other goodies, and also a Beads of Courage Team Bead Carry a Bead Kit. These kits provide participants with a set of matching beads for them to wear or carry on the run in honour of a child in the program. At the end of the run, they are asked to write their story on a card, along with a note of encouragement, and one set of their beads will be given to a child in the program, while the other is theirs to keep.

Beads of Courage is a valuable program in Saskatchewan hospitals, staff say.

“As a therapist who facilitates BOC in our hospital, I feel I have been granted an honour. I see many of the procedures these children endure, and when they collect their Beads, I can see a glimmer of pride; in all of their pain and struggles they acknowledge and announce to themselves and to others their strength, their survivorship, and their courage,” said Shaylene Smith, Recreation Therapist and Child Life Specialist, Royal University Hospital, Acute Care Pediatrics with Saskatoon Health Region.

“I love giving out beads to the parents of NICU babies,” said Dawn Erker, NICU Nurse at Saskatoon Health Region’s Royal University Hospital.

“It is a great way to start communication with the parents about the condition and care of their baby. It is a tangible way to recognize to the parent that you care about and understand what happens to their baby. I especially like giving out special recognition beads (the bumpy one especially) to recognize their struggles as a parent in such a foreign place. It totally warms my heart to share the beads with Neonatal families and to see their smiles when they receive them.”

For more information, check out the run’s website at www.colourrunsask.ca, or find them on Facebook at Beads of Courage Colour Run.


Elara and Beads of Courage By Tara Johnson

Elara and her beads.

Elara and her beads.

Meet five-year-old Elara, who has been collecting Beads of Courage for five years. Earlier this month, she was hospitalized due to pneumonia. Part of her treatment was to receive chest physiotherapy every four hours. The physiotherapist would give medication to make her cough and then use her hands to ‘percuss’ all over her chest, sides, and back.

As you can imagine, it’s a therapy that’s not popular with five-year-olds who aren’t feeling well. One day, she was really upset and didn’t want her physiotherapist to come near her. All she wanted to do was sleep. Her physiotherapist asked her to be brave and explained how the treatment was important and had to be done, that it would help her get better so we could go home again.

“When we are done this, can I give you a fancy rainbow bead?” her physiotherapist asked. And Elara agreed.

Once it was all done, instead of the usual square rainbow therapy beads, her physiotherapist awarded Elara with a special COURAGE bead and it happened to be shaped like a big rainbow!

Elara loved it.

As the day progressed, she became sicker and became uninterested in things. She fell asleep and by morning the next day, Elara was admitted to the Saskatoon PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). She was asleep in the PICU for a few days, but once she awoke, her physiotherapist came back to continue on with the percussion therapy.

Again, Elara really didn’t want it to be done, but agreed on one condition: that she hold her special rainbow bead the entire time.

You can’t see the bead in this picture, because the bead is held firmly in her hand. She held that bead every time she had chest physiotherapy for the rest of that hospitalization.

That bead gave her courage. Of all the courage beads she has received, that’s the one that spoke to her, and that’s why Beads of Courage is so important.