Synchronized Fireflies Inspire Winning Bead Design

Every year, Beads of Courage challenges children, siblings and caregivers in 10 hospitals and sites around the U.S. to design beads in our annual Design A Bead program.  Participants at each location are given a specific theme and are asked to draw a concept for a bead that symbolizes that theme.

For example, what would LOVE look like if it was a bead?  What about STRENGTH, LIFE, or PEACE?

The Design A Bead challenge culminates when the Top Design at each location is chosen and is turned into a real glass bead by a talented lampwork bead artist.  
Children and teens who are members of Beads of Courage are more than a little familiar with beads as symbols of courage, honor and hope.  The signature Beads of Courage arts-in-medicine program supports more than 60,000 children and teens coping with serious illness, providing colorful beads for every test, treatment and procedure they undergo.  The beads offer a tangible way for children to tell their unique stories of courage.

One of the participating locations in the 2015 Design A Bead challenge was the Jewel School Institute in Knoxville, TN, the hands-on classroom learning department of Jewelry Television®, which sponsors the Design A Bead challenge. 

The Top Design from the Jewel School Institute for 2015 was created by Dana Jones, an honored JTV customer.  Her creation, based on the word SPIRIT, was translated into glass by bead artist Debbie Mayne.

The finished bead, shown above, was inspired by Dana’s visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, TN, where she witnessed a spectacular display of synchronous fireflies.  Photinus carolinus is the only species of fireflies in the U.S. that synchronizes its light patterns, flashing on and off in unison.  Dana traveled to the park to observe this rare phenomenon in person, which only occurs for about two weeks each year.

She was also inspired to use the theme of fireflies in memory of Mary, a childhood friend of her son Joshua.  Mary passed away from cancer at the age of 7, but Dana remembered how much the little girl loved fireflies. 

Dana appreciates the symbolism of fireflies in the lives of many people, especially children, and wanted to capture that in her design. 

“To me, fireflies represent a combination of hope and wonder. They seem magical and give so much joy and hope to the children who see them.”    

When Dana visited the park to see the fireflies, she was also wearing a pair of handcrafted beads as a participant in the Beads of Courage Carry A Bead program.  

The Carry A Bead program invites everyone – from ordinary citizens to famous celebrities and athletes – to carry a pair of beads to an event or activity they attend, like Dana did during her visit to the fireflies event.  

After the event, Carry A Bead participants return one bead to us, along with a note of encouragement, to be given to a child in the Beads of Courage program.

Beads that are carried become special Act of Courage beads that help encourage children coping with serious illness on tough treatment days.

Stay tuned for information on how YOU can get one of the limited edition beads from the 2015 Design A Bead challenge, including Dana’s beautiful fireflies design, brought to life in glass by artist Debbie Mayne.

To Carry A Bead, get started by requesting a Carry A Bead kit here.

To donate to Beads of Courage, please visit