For the Syracuse Crunch, Wednesday morning’s practice was about making a difference for kids at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. 

The team’s focus in the locker room was the same as every day, but instead of listening to their coach, all eyes were on Susan Bertrand, Connor Radley, and others representing- and explaining- Maureen’s Hope Foundation and their Beads of Courage: Carry a Bead program. 

“They can share their own personal strength and encouragement with a child that’s going through treatment by simply wearing a bead,” Bertrand explained.

She’s spearheading the program. Connor, an 11-year-old fighting Osteosarcoma, showed the Crunch his beads.

Each one is a visual representation of the cancer treatments he has been through. “I feel like that I accomplished something that I’ve never accomplished before,” expressed Radley.

The journey of the beads starts when each one is pinned on a player. Then, they head on to the ice for their normal drills. 

The Crunch can’t wear their beads during a game because of regulations, so they wear them during practice. The point of Carry a Bead, though, remains the same. It’s about the journey, hard work, and encouragement. That’s a message athletes can spread to the kids who look up to them. 

“It’s crazy to see how these kids go through all the chemotherapy and treatment and seeing all the beads they have, and they know exactly which ones mean what, and they remember it like it was yesterday,” Crunch player Daniel Walcott said. “So, it’s encouraging to see all the courage that those kids have and to include us in their battle? It’s good for us.”

It’s also a nice reminder- as each player writes a note of encouragement to kids like Connor- that a small act of kindness can go a long way. 

Saturday the Crunch play at 7:00 at night. That game is a fundraiser for Maureen’s Hope Foundation. The tickets are $18.00 instead of $27.00. A portion of proceeds will go to Bertrand’s cause.