Beads of Courage Colour Run

Colour runs are all the rage this summer. A multitude of charities are hopping on the colour run fundraising bandwagon – and why not? Colour runs attract all levels of runners and non-runners alike looking to have a good time.

This past weekend my kids and I participated in our first colour run, the Beads of Courage Colour Run in Saskatoon. That I know of, this was the first colour run in Saskatoon, and there are three more coming up later this summer (The Fireworks Festival, Color Me Rad and Run or Dye). I had heard about Beads of Courage through the Saskatoon Road Runners weekly emails and facebook page and loved the concept. After chatting with a couple of the organizers at the Saskatchewan Marathon expo last weekend I went home and signed up!

The Beads of Courage program was piloted in Phoenix in 2004 and is now run in over 150 hospitals in Canada, the US, Japan, the UK and New Zealand. The program provides arts in medicine support for children coping with serious illnesses. Each participant in a Beads of Courage Run is given two matching beads to pin or string on a necklace and wear throughout the run in honour of a child. Afterwards, we were asked to fill out a card of enCOURAGEment and attach one of our beads to it. The beads are then given to children in the program, who collect beads on a necklace of their own as they reach treatment milestones. The runners’ second bead is theirs to keep as a reminder of the event. The symbolism of these beads chokes me up and I love the thought of my matching bead being given to a sick child as they undergo treatment. All the money raised at this event will be used to fund the Saskatchewan program, which is so nice to hear. I also like that everyone who works with Beads of Courage is a volunteer, so 100% of the proceeds go to the kids – nothing has to be spent on anyone’s salary.

My team beads pinned on my fresh white t-shirt!

My team beads pinned on my fresh white t-shirt!

I met my friend Janay when she was very pregnant with her first baby. I remember her excitement and anticipation at this late stage in her pregnancy clearly. Janay had a very complicated and long delivery, which left her son Aedan with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. Janay and her family are currently raising money to help Aedan go to China for stem cell treatments that will give him a better quality of life. Last summer Janay gave me a silver necklace with a support ribbon pendant on it as a thank-you for my help with their fundraising efforts. Aedan isn’t in the Beads of Courage program, but he and his Mom mean a lot to me, so I decided to wear this necklace for the run as well.

I knew I wanted to run Beads of Courage with my kids. What better way to teach them that the world is bigger than themselves and to remind them to be thinking of others? I hesitated a bit though – $45 times four of us is a bit hefty! The ladies I chatted with at the Expo were quick to tell me that kids age ten and under run free! Wow!

Unregistered kids wouldn’t receive a t-shirt or team beads of course, so we made our own. I got plain white t-shirts and puffy paint at Michaels, as well as some colored beads and funky sunglasses. They loved making their bead necklaces, and I made their team shirts. We also picked up some neon striped socks and hair bands (which the boys insisted on wearing as well!).

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This run started at the respectable hour of 9:00. I hoped to arrive by 8 so we would have time to find a parking spot, get ourselves organized and take a bathroom break before the run began. This meant we had to leave the farm by 7:00, and kids had to get up EARLY! I really talked up how exciting it would be to eat breakfast in the truck on the way, and that saved us a lot of time. I packed everything and put it in the truck the night before (except the refrigerated stuff of course), and that also helped a lot. I woke the kids up at 6:30, and they were so excited! “Is it the rainbow race today?” Riley asked as he opened his eyes. “Hooray!”

I was fairly confident that Alyssa (5) would be able to run the entire 5 km, especially after the 3 km Mother’s Day run we had done together. I thought Riley (3) would likely make it most of the way, but knew Evan (also 3) wouldn’t. Evan has always been our sensitive guy, and new things bother him sometimes. I told him I would pull our wagon so if anyone got tired they could hop in. The always considerate Alyssa wondered what would happen if I got tired. I told them they’d have to pull me in the wagon then! “Oh Mommy!” Haha.

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After singing the national anthem (thank you, I love runs that do that, and not all of them do!), and a few words from one of the organizers (including the fundraising total – $13,000!!!! WOW!), we set off along the paved path that runs through Lakeview Park. Riley and Alyssa ran ahead of Evan and I, who jumped in the wagon after 100m or so. He wasn’t sure what to think of the first two colour stations, but he started to come around when he saw how everyone was smiling and laughing. The third colour station was green, Evan’s favorite color, and he jumped out of the wagon to run through the green colour. (The colour used was dyed corn starch). After that he was sold on the idea and ran most of the rest of it.

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At the finish line one of the organizers asked the kids if it was as fun as they thought it would be. Alyssa enthusiastically responded, “it was even BETTER than we thought it would be!”


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We had SO MUCH fun! I’m so glad we made the effort to get up early and go to the city for a fun day. We took some finish line pictures, had a snack, and went to the bead dedication tent. My daughter had made an extra bead necklace and wanted to leave it for a sick kid “to make them happy.” A volunteer very carefully placed her necklace in the box with all the team beads and thanked her. The whole rest of the day she talked about this and wondered if the kid would like her necklace.

Team beads on their way to kids around the world. At the bottom right you can see Alyssa's necklace. :)

Team beads on their way to kids around the world. At the bottom right you can see Alyssa’s necklace. 🙂

Banner filled with notes of enCOURAGEment signed by runners.

Banner filled with notes of enCOURAGEment signed by runners.

Our next stop was the River Landing spray park. I honestly thought the colour would just rinse off the kids, and an hour at a spray park would be perfect. It was perfect, but it did nothing to take the colour off! We got some weird looks and I’m sure people wondered why we were orange, but we really didn’t care. We ate our picnic lunch and had ice cream, then headed home. It was such a fun day, and my daughter announced as she was eating her ice cream, “this is the best day EVER!” 🙂 Happy Mommy.

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Our run package had included a great list of tips for a colour run, and since this is a new trend I thought I would share some. I’ve added some of my own as well. I hope they will help you prepare for your first colour run!

1. Be prepared to get colour on EVERYTHING. Wear socks and shoes you don’t care about, and yes, even your underwear will somehow manage to get colour on it.

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2. Wear sunglasses. The colour will get in your eyes. My kids’ sunglasses were something I bought because I thought they were cute (and they were cheap!), but I was really glad they had them.

3. Put your keys, phone, camera, and anything else you’re bringing along in a ziploc bag. I was so glad I had done this, the bag was red at the end of the run, but my phone was clean!

4. It’s not a race. There will be kids, walkers, wagons, strollers, and maybe a couple runners in there somewhere. Leave your iPod and Garmin at home.

5. Bring a camera, but leave your DSLR at home. There were at few photographers at this run, and they all had their fancy cameras wrapped in plastic, but I’m sure they still got some colour on them. This is a time to break out the point and shoot you never use anymore, or just use your phone’s camera.

6. Bring towels or blankets to protect your vehicle seats when you drive home. This was my big fail. I’d brought a change of clothes for everyone, but hadn’t thought about us having colour on our skin and in our hair. I didn’t realize that a handful of yellow colour had been tossed at my hair until I got out of the truck at River Landing and my headrest was yellow. Oops.

7. Don’t lift your arms up when you pass through a colour station! I saw a woman afterwards who had cut the sleeves off her t-shirt and had colour in her arm pits. Coloured corn starch plus sweat = not pretty at all!

8. Don’t go alone. I think the main reason I had so much fun at this event was the simple fact that I did it with my kids. Grab some kids or a group of girlfriends and get them to register too. A group of women we chatted with afterwards were on their way out for brunch – I’m sure they got some stares!

This run was such a wonderful experience in every way. I love how whenever you set out to do something like this that will ultimately help others, it ends up helping you too. Raising money for a program like this put a smile on every face that morning, and left us all with some pretty great memories. I will string my team bead and pewter pendant on a necklace and wear it in every race I run. I will always wonder about the kid who will get my other bead, and hope that some of the strength I feel when I run will somehow be felt by him or her through that bead.

Click here to find out how to get a Beads of Courage program started at a hospital near you.

7 responses to this post.

  1. How exciting for you to have your wee ones with you and for all to enjoy it so much. What a great mom you are to expose them early to the “fun” in running and physical activity! Loved the post and all the great info! I agree that its great to have fun on a run but even moreso when it helps others. And that last line of your post… wow. I’m sure they’ll feel your strength and be grateful for it.


  2. Excellent post, think you covered the event an days events very well.


  3. Posted by Nicole on June 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I was the one who took your daughters extra bead necklace and it still brings a lump to my throat and I have bragged about her to many. My daughter is a part of the program and seeing other children participate was a huge encouragement to me. Thank you for your participation and the joy your children brought to many there.


  4. Posted by Dawn Erker on June 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Your family is an inspiration to everyone!! And yes, tell your daughter there will be some, somewhere in the world that will love her bead necklace!! I was one of the volunteers at the dedication table, so I missed out on the run but really enjoyed watching the people come back covered. Even though I had a small amount of colour on my shirt from the other volunteers who were throwing, I did indeed have colour on my bra, now I have a rainbow bra…lucky me!!
    Thank you thank you thank you for participating in our beads of Courage fun!!


  5. The run sounds like fun. My 15yr old daughter wants to run a color run so I will have to do some checking into the other runs happening in Saskatoon.


  6. […] kids have talked about last year’s Beads of Courage Colour Run at least once a week since we ran it last June. They have asked […]


  7. […] blog posts about this race from 2013 and 2014 will explain the details of this incredible charity and the amazing women who put this […]


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