When it comes to racing, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards knows how to get to the finish line fast. But when fighting pediatric cancer, it's not always about speed. Simply reaching the finish line is what matters most. That finish line is called remission. That's why Carl recently teamed up with Aflac and the Beads of Courage program to help provide kids with cancer and other serious illnesses the support and encouragement they need to stay strong.

Helping children stay strong

Aflac has been actively involved in supporting children with cancer and other serious illnesses since 1995, when executives pledged $3 million to establish the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Since then, Aflac employees and sales agents have raised more than $60 million for the cause.

Beads of Courage is an innovative arts and medicine program affiliated with the Aflac Cancer Center, as well as 70 other hospitals nationwide. Each bead a young patient receives recognizes a milestone, procedure or another feat of courage, inspiring strength and bravery during their treatments. Many children string their beads together into a necklace and wear them as a badge of honor or as a way to show other kids that they can do it too; that they can beat cancer.

The new Aflac Wingman

In 2010, Aflac lent its iconic spokesduck to the Beads of Courage program. The company partnered with Beads of Courage to create a brand new bead, the Aflac Wingman Bead, that symbolizes the support surrounding these special children, reminding them they're never alone in their fight against cancer or serious illness.

This isn't the first time the Aflac duck, a pop icon, has helped raise awareness for pediatric cancer. In fact, since 2001, special limited-edition Aflac Holiday Ducks have been sold online at aflac.com and in Macy's department stores, raising almost $3 million for the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta and to benefit pediatric cancer treatment and research around the country.

 

The road to recovery

On October 10th Aflac and Carl Edwards unveiled the Aflac Wingman bead at a NASCAR race in Fontana California. Celebrating his 10th birthday at the event, the Aflac duck shared his birthday wish to help give kids fighting cancer strength and encouragement through the Beads of Courage program.

 

Edwards himself also wore beads of courage, given to him by young NASCAR fans Nolan Blake (7) and Maddie Cox (7), during the race, giving two young children a lasting memory. Nolan and Maddie, both fighting cancer had undergone extensive treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation. Between them, they have earned hundreds of courage beads.

For children fighting cancer and other serious illnesses, each bead tells a story of hope and represents a step on the road to recovery. The Aflac Wingman is now a part of this journey, supporting these young fighters as they push towards the finish line, one courageous step at a time. To date, more than 6,000 beads have been purchased for children across the country but there are still more children in need every day.

If you'd like to support the program, provide a $5 donation and Beads of Courage will send a child battling cancer or another serious illness a Wingman bead and the Encouragement Book to a hospital in a region you select. If you would like to earn your very own bead you can purchase a flock of beads for five children and get one for yourself. Visit Beads of Courage for more details.