it’s o f f i c i a l

It’s MARCH. Whoa. Am I the only one wondering how the heck that happened? I love March because I feel like spring is ‘officially’ just around the corner. The light has been brighter for a while, but the word ‘March’ kind of spells relief.

You know what I was thinking though? Pretty soon it’s going to be SOOOOOOOOO freaking hot in my studio while I’m torching. I don’t know if you remember but I said I would not truly complain about the winter cold, or wish it away, not even once (because it’s so lovely to work without sweat pouring down my face…) and I didn’t. Not once. And it is COLD in the winter in Edmonton. Real cold.

Come spring and summer, all bets are off. There WILL be a lot of howling up in here when the temperature starts to climb.

Today will be my first day back at the torch post-vacation. I’m mostly caught up on all the non-torching stuff. The plan is to spend one or two days working on some new things to send to Beads of Courage. It will help me get back in the swing of things, and I get to do some good at the same time. If you don’t know about Beads of Courage, it’s a beautiful arts-in-medicine program that provides beads to seriously ill children in hospital, to help them stay strong and to honor their journey.

I love to donate beads when I can, and in the past what I’ve done is a ‘one-for-one’ system. Whenever I sell a ‘cutesy’ bead – a ladybug or a turtle, for example, I donate one just like it to BOC. July 18 Beads of Courage envelope

I’ve done some other fun things too 🙂 The hungry caterpillar…Sept-26-beads-of-courage-caterpillar

Crazy butterflies….Sept-26-beads-of-courage-crazy-butterflies

Wise owl…Sept-26-beads-of-courage-owl

And fun, bright, bumpy beads…Sept-26-beads-of-courage-set

It’s fun for me to take some time out once in a while to make things that are really outside my comfort zone. I am NOT a sculptural beadmaker, that is for sure. But when I make beads for kids I can be for a day 🙂

I loved all those beads, and I’m sure they were appreciated, but I was thinking… what kinds of beads do the kids actually WANT? What kinds of beads are they really hoping for?

I’m not totally up (down?) with what’s cool these days, since I’m not a parent, or a teacher, or someone who spends a lot of time with the younger set. But I was curious. I hadn’t seen a good list of recent requests anywhere, so I put out a plea on Facebook the other day.

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The response was amazing!! There were over 70 replies, mostly from parents of the amazing, brave BOC kids. I wanted to share a few of them, to give you a glimpse into the value of this special organization and what it means to the parents of the children who participate.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.53.15 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.55.05 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.41.00 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 2.05.05 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.41.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 1.42.41 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-01 at 2.02.34 PM

And man, ideas, ideas, ideas! No shortage of inspiration! Parents are full of good ideas. Fellow beadmakers, take note!

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[As a side note – I wondered about the legalities of making and donating beads that feature copyrighted/trademarked characters like Spiderman, Mine Craft, Elmo, Minions, etc… and had a little chat with someone from BOC about it. There was no ‘official’ answer, though the feeling (and my feeling too) is that if you are gifting them to the program, and not selling them (which is a BIG BIG NO-NO), that is ok.]

Some things are hard to find, I think because they’re REALLY hard to make! I hope that someone out there will take up this challenge:

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 2.07.08 PM

At the end of the day, I was feeling very humbled that I’m able to make a small contribution to such a special thing. I’m always saying that beads are never ‘just beads’ and if this doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

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EACH one of those beads – every single one – represents a treatment, a procedure, or a milestone in little Luke’s journey to recovery. More than 1400, and this adorable little guy is 2 years old. Now, that is BRAVE. That is COURAGE.

If you’re a beadmaker – I highly recommend donating some of your time to this amazing program. Making beads that are used to create beautiful jewelry is very special and very rewarding, but knowing that your bead is being held by a child lying in a hospital bed, helping them heal… Well… that is beyond words.

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Feeling teary? Me too.

If you are thinking of donating beads, it could not be more easy. All the guidelines are covered in detail right here: There are a few little technical things that you need to know about what kinds of beads are allowed (ie. no unencased silver glass, no ‘sticky-outy’ bits that could break off, preferred hole size, etc.).

For the Canadians in the crowd, there is a Beads of Courage Canada website that you can visit for information on where to send your bead donations! Click here:

If you are not a beadmaker, you can show your support too! BOC has a ‘Beads From a Distance’ program, which provides beads to children who are not located in major centers where the program operates. From time to time I donate a portion of sales to this program, and customers and friends have matched those donations, which is amazing 🙂 It’s an easy, 5 minute process to make a donation:

Don’t forget, if you’re a fan of Amazon, you can shop through their ‘Amazon Smile’ program to support your favorite charity. Beads of Courage included!

Well, I’m inspired! And motivated to make some fun things. I guess I’d better get busy!

Wishing you a joyful, creative, inspired month of March.



18 thoughts on “it’s o f f i c i a l

  1. Thank you for all of this, Julie. I participated in the charm exchange in November and that was the first I heard of this charity but I want to do more. Thanks for the nudge. Love your uglibeads!!!

    • Thank you Nan!!! And I really need to do more too. All the lovely responses from the parents really brought home what a difference it makes. I saw the charm exchange and it was amazing!!!!

  2. I’m fighting back tears, but I’m also proud that someone in my family is part of this wonderful program. Gives a whole new perspective to the word, courage!

  3. My little one just got her beads from the distance program and flipped when she saw your hungry caterpillar and strawberry! What a talent! Thank you for all your hard work!

    • I’m so happy for her, Katie!!! I found out about the Beads from a Distance program relatively recently and it’s such a great idea! I’m so glad that so many more kids have a chance to participate that way. Tell your daughter thank you, I’m glad she loves the Hungry Caterpillar 😉 I should do more of those 🙂 xoxo

  4. I have never been able to thank anyone that has donated beads before! There is no real way to say thank you! Or to show the thanks that I have for how much the beads of courage program has done for my sons!

    He was diagnosed in 2009 (he was 9) with stage 4 metastatic germinomas of the brain! 43 tumors to be exact!

    The BOC program truly helped him to stay positive through some very difficult times!!! My husband and I feel that the positivity that Dylan had throughout this very scary time is one of the main reasons that he is alive today!

    He never thought he was going to die! Therefor he was strong to fight! The beads donated to the program only helped make this strength stronger!!!
    He knew that everything he was going through HAD to be done. But being able to get a bead for everything he went through just made it so much help! Knowing that Child Life would come in and he could pick beads that day made hinge so much easier for him!

    He still receives beads from his new hospital here in Hawaii (my husband is military and we moved 2 months after his final radiation treatment) when he was made aware that his new hospital also participated in BOC as well he was SO excited and immediately felt safe here!

    The donations that you provide are SO loved!! They mean the world! We were able to receive the Purple Heart bead that his Cancer was over!

    He is still battling with the issues that treatment and Cancer has left. Where many organizations walk away from you when the “Cancer is gone” BOC stays with you and supports your family!!!

    Thank you SO much for donating! And for loving what you do!!!

    • Janel,

      I so enjoyed reading about the role BOC has played in Dylan’s recovery process. Thank you so much for sharing that!!! What an amazing, inspiring person he is!

      It must have been the most INCREDIBLE day when you received the Purple Heart bead ❤

      Congratulations to your family on your strength and perseverance and positivity – you are right, positive thinking changes everything!

      I'm so glad that BOC has been with you 'every step of the way' and continues to offer support. The more I learn about all the facets of their wonderful program the more inspired I am to make MORE BEADS!!!! 🙂 I love that bead artists are able to send a little of our love and happy creative energy where it's needed.


  5. Reblogged this on Child Life Mommy and commented:
    Beads of Courage is an amazing program that helps children cope with their medical experiences and hospitalization by marking these milestones of bravery and courage with a bead. Ever wonder who is behind the scenes in designing these beautiful beads? Read about Julie Wong Sontag from Uglibeads on her inspiration and passion to help the children and families. Absolutly beautiful.

    • Wow, thank you, I am very touched at your kind words. I feel like I could never do enough to support Beads of Courage. Feeling very determined to step it up this year!! 🙂 Your blog is wonderful too – I don’t have children myself but I can see that what you do is very valuable to those who do! ❤ xo

      • I look forward to reading your posts Julie! Thanks so much for your kind words as well. Together we are both making a difference in children and family’s lives.

  6. When I was taking my Child life Course I learned about Beads of Courage. I watched the video about it and fell in love. It truly is such a wonderful idea for the children and the families!!!!!

    • How can you NOT fall in love after seeing a video or a photo of one of these amazing kids with their beads? My goodness!!!! It was the same for me. I knew about the program for a long time from my beadmaking connections, but it wasn’t until I saw some of the stories that I truly felt a personal connection and a passion to help out whenever I can 🙂

      It’s awesome that you had a chance to learn about Beads of Courage in your program – who better to spread the word than people who work with children in a professional capacity? That’s fantastic.

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